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Turning Justice into Righteousness

Turning Justice into Righteousness

Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof:” this is one of the most famous lines from all Scripture, lines we read this week as part of Parashat Shof’tim. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most misunderstood lines in all of Scripture. We commonly translate the text as, “Justice, Justice, You must pursue (it).” Justice is the rule of law. The scales of justice hang in every courthouse in the country. Justice is really nothing more than the best answer we have for any given legal situation, at any given point in time. “Justice” allowed slave ownership. The highest "Court of Justice” in the land affirmed it on a number of occasionsuntil it did not anymore. Then, a new standard of “Justice” was imposed. We are not seeking justice; we have it. What we need is righteousness, the better definition of “Tzedek.” We must pursue righteousness (the best moral answer available to us). Sometimes, following the law, may be “just,” but it is not righteous.

Monday, August 17, I joined in the NAACP’s America’s Journey for Justice; an amazing event on so many levels. As much conversation as we shared, we kept returning to the topic of the laws affirmed by government and our purveyor of justice (the courts) still allowed for discrimination and disparate treatment of minorities and women. As we walked across the Georgia countryside, we became more focused on pursuing righteousness, holding our nation’s leaders to a higher standard than the law. We marched to remind America that the Constitution of this land declared the rights to equality in opportunity and security are “unalienable.” While the law is more egalitarian than it used to be, our system of justice still has a long way to go. My 19.5 miles calling our nation’s attention to more righteous answers did not change the world, but together, our voices over 860 miles can.

Rabbi Marc Kline is the rabbi at Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, NJ.



Sharing our stories is the first victory of #JusticeSummer #TzedekSummer https://t.co/427kzXoDgj
8/13/15, 6:07 PM

My latest blog "Why I'm Marching" @NAACP @ReformRabbis @TheRAC #tzedeksummer #JusticeSummer http://t.co/EftcOQnWdJ http://t.co/g2IGNGgGvR
8/14/15, 12:18 PM

Central Rabbis Kolin & Lorge march w/@naacp @reformrabbis Journey for Justice #tzedeksummer #justicesummer
8/14/15, 3:31 PM

True Strength at America's Journey for Justice, by Rabbi Mary Zamore #tzedeksummer #justicesummer @TheRAC @NAACP
8/17/15, 4:51 PM

My post on why Reform Jews are marching the Journey for Justice: http://t.co/Le0sl4U6p8 #JusticeSummer #TzedekSummer http://t.co/M4QtoIdGth
8/18/15, 12:59 PM

Marching for @tinycorg with @NAACP @TheRAC for #JusticeSummer #tzedeksummer #BeTorah #PrayingWithMyFeet http://t.co/ex4owNyNSl
8/19/15, 11:03 AM

I dedicate today's miles to my sons & other young people--because our schools matter. #JusticeSummer
8/19/15, 11:44 AM

Proudly joined @NAACP's "America's Journey for Justice" last night championing economic justice #JusticeSummer http://t.co/Hs72iCItT2
8/19/15, 3:58 PM

Rabbi and Daughter march for civil rights in Deep South. @rachkip #TzedekSummer #JusticeSummer http://t.co/JEFsX8NodU
8/20/15, 9:50 AM

Our President @MilesRapoport on why we are marching in the Journey For Justice https://t.co/QYZt0zyBWV #JusticeSummer
8/20/15, 2:39 PM

Inspiring: LA's own @CongOrAmi marches 4 Civil Rights in Selma @theacornonline #justicesummer http://t.co/iICnsmXtEo http://t.co/WhUF77EImz
8/20/15, 3:02 PM

March on @CornellWBrooks what a blessing it was to march with all my new friends @NAACP @ReformRabbis @TheRAC http://t.co/IlYoDYesDm
8/20/15, 5:34 PM