Shir Shel Shavua : Issue 14

August 11, 2023

Shoftim: Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof

Shir Shel Shavua: Parashat Shoftim: Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof

This week’s Torah portion opens with the summons to “appoint judges and officials for your tribes . . . and they shall govern the people with due justice. You shall not judge unfairly” (Deuteronomy 16:18). With those words, and in countless other places, Moses insists that justice is an eternal religious obligation, at the very core of what it means to be a Jew. Justice is not restricted to biblical Judaism. The Rabbis of the Talmud and Midrash were faithful proponents of the pursuit of justice as well.

In Midrash Devarim Rabbah, they explain that God loves justice even more importantly than sacrifice. This bears out what Scripture says. “To do what is right and just is more desired by the Lord than sacrifice.” Scripture does not say, as much as sacrifice, but “more than sacrifice.” The midrash then goes on at length to explain the many ways in which justice is superior to sacrifice in the sight of God.

Clearly, whereas sacrifice could only function while the Temple stood in Jerusalem, justice and righteousness were essential during the biblical period and are no less mandated today.

Isaac Zones is an Oakland-based musician specializing in Jewish, spiritual, folk, and family music. He teaches music classes, leads prayer services, officiates at lifecycle events, and conducts song-leading for community events, weddings, and other celebrations.

Zones wrote this song for Song Leader Boot Camp 2018 - when asked to present a song to the conference about prayer through action. Here he records the text with Eliana Light and Chana Rothman. The rendition has some beautiful harmonies and refrains.

Zones says, “The song itself has come to feel like a prayer for me - and hopefully an inspiration for Jews to take action with the injustices all around us - even those not directly effecting our community.”

The message of the Bible’s ancient text is powerful and pertinent to this day. Shabbat Shalom and continue to pursue justice!

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