Shoftim: When Righteousness Is Murder



A provocative question: Can someone pursue righteous justice in an unjust and unrighteous way?

An example: Making a neighbor sick just so that we may fulfill the positive commandment to visit the sick? Robbing a neighbor blind just to fulfill the mitzvah of giving charity to the poor?

In short: Do the ends, in these instances, justify the means?

Tzedek, tzedek tirdof, says our Torah portion – “Justice, justice (or righteousness, righteousness) you shall pursue.”

Why does the Torah repeat itself? What is true justice and righteousness? And why should we specifically “pursue” it, not simply implement it?

Two beautiful Chassidic teachings – one from the Sfas Emes and one from the Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Peshischa – and a seemingly “unkosher” story from Shmuel Munkes, instruct us how to be righteous today.

For the zealous pursuit of justice must be righteous itself, lest it be only a zealous pursuit.



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