Parashat Shoftim

Pursuing Justice For All

True justice balances the needs of a whole group, rather than just the individual.

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How does this sugya (passage) understand the meaning of the word "justice?" What implications does this interpretation have for how it is pursued?

What are some other ways to interpret the meaning of "justice" and how does that change how one should pursue it?

In the example of the camel, the passage suggests that the unladen camel should give way to the laden one. How can we understand this metaphor in our own terms? What modern issues might it apply to?

A Word

In the movie A Beautiful Mind, Dr. John Nash is portrayed as coming up with a "truly original idea" in which he suggests that the best result is not one in which everyone pursues his or her own selfish best interest, but where one pursues one's self-interest within the context of the entire group's best interest. Thus, he suggests that one should be willing to make minor individual sacrifices for the good of the group. Our sugya makes the same point, recognizing that true justice is reached when all members of the group's needs are taken into consideration, not only our individual needs. Consider the implications for your own life of using this understanding of justice.

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Rabbi Marc D. Israel

Rabbi Marc D. Israel is the Director of Education and Congregational Programming at Ohr Kodesh Congregation in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He previously served as the Director of the Union for Reform Judaism Kesher College Department and as the Director of Congregational Relations at the Religious Action Center.