Pursue Justice
Pursue Justice

The Torah teaches in the book of Deuteronomy “Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof,” literally meaning “Justice, justice, you shall pursue.”  The notion of tzedek tirdof--pursuing justice is a core Jewish value that not only refers to courts and laws, but perhaps more importantly, deals with how we treat others.  The prophet Micah teaches that the idea of “good” is encompassed by the act of seeking justice.  In doing so, one can walk with G-d (Micah 3:1-12).

To pursue justice means that we should live righteously, meaning it is our responsibility to ensure that the needs of others are as important to us as our own.  Furthermore, righteous living involves us acting ethically--to be upright, just, and sincere.  The commentator Nachmanides reminds us that tzedek tirdof challenges us to resolve conflict by compromising and teaches that being righteous is more important than the obligations of law.  What is essential in being righteous and pursuing justice is our ability to act fairly and be inclusive of others.  Because every human being is unique and was created b’tzelem elohim, in G-d’s image, they can make a positive difference and contribute to our world in special ways (Genesis 1:26).

The value of tzedek tirdof lifts up the messages of the prophets who sought justice and fairness for all.  Like the prophets of our Hebrew Bible, we too can question how the world is and what it ought to be.  We can keep Divine expectations for a better world and better people at the center of our relationship with G-d.  Furthermore, no one opinion is of greater importance than the other.  In fact, in examining the phrase “Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof,” we learn that the phrase is in the singular.  Therefore, each of us must pursue justice.  When we do so together and act in righteous ways, the pursuit of justice may be fulfilled.  

As Pirke Avot teaches, “You are not required to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.…”  We do not need to complete the task of tzedek tirdof alone, but should do our part in creating a just world.  Our choice, then, is whether or not we should take action.  When we do so, the pursuit of justice comes closer to being fulfilled.

Questions for Personal Reflection:

1. Is there a difference between acting ethically each day and specifically pursuing justice, such as by advocating publicly for a specific issue?

2. Why is it important to understand that our concepts of right and wrong, good and bad, may differ from others?

3. How can you make a difference in your classroom by pursuing justice or fairness for each child’s unique needs?  How might you differentiate your curriculum, instruction, and classroom management strategies to exemplify this approach?

4. How can you pursue justice--tzedek tirdof on a regular basis and incorporate this value in the classroom?

Try to make your world more fair, and help everyone get what they need to live a safe and healthy life.





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