circa fall 2001
i have been distressed by the number of calls of vengeance and punishment that have been heard lately.
there is no justification for the actions of the terrorists. but let us not forget that more likely than not they were once victims themselves and were simply consumed by bitterness, rage and vengefulness.
let us not become our enemies.
this is in no way to make light of the incredible pain and loss that so many, many people are now going through.
but let us seek a true and honorable justice that will create an environment of peace and fertile soil for healing to grow.
i pray that we find the path to break the endless cycle of retribution, extinguish the self-perpetuating fires of vengeance and walk in the way of peace-makers.
let us focus our attention to love and console those who have lost dear ones.
On Deuteronomy 16:20 --
Justice, and only justice shalt thou follow, that you may live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God gives you.
A Chassidic rabbi explained this insistence on 'justice and only justice' to imply, 'Do not use unjust means to secure the victory of justice' --a deep saying. Man is slow to realize that justice is strong enough, Divine enough, to triumph without itself resorting to injustice. In the eyes of the Prophets, justice was a Divine, irresistible force.
Justice is the awe-inspired respect for the personality of others, and their inalienable rights; even as injustice is the most flagrant manifestation of disrespect for the personality of others. Judaism requires that human personality be respected in every human being --in the female heathen prisoner of war, in the delinquent, even in the criminal condemned to death. The lashes to be inflicted on the evil-doer must be strictly limited, lest 'thy brother seem vile unto thee' (25:3); and, if he be found worthy of death by hanging, his human dignity must still be respected: his body is not to remain hanging over night, but must be buried the same day (21:23)
It is thus seen that whereas in Greek the idea of justice was akin to harmony, in Hebrew it is akin to holiness. Isaiah (5:16) has for all time declared 'The Holy God is sanctified by justice.' In brief, where there is no justice. no proper and practical appreciation of the human rights of every human being as sons of the one and only God of righteousness --there we have a negation of religion. The oppressor, the man who tramples on others, and especially on those like the orphan and the stranger who are too weak to defend themselves, is throughout Scripture held forth as the enemy of God and man. The final disappearance of injustice and oppression is represented in the New Year Amidah as the goal of human history, and as synonymous with the realization of God's Kingdom on earth.
However, justice is more than mere abstention from injuring our fellow-men. 'The work of justice is peace; and the effect thereof quietness and confidence forever' (Isaiah 32:17).It is a positive conception, and includes charity, philanthropy, and every endeavour to bring out what is highest and best in others.