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[KE CyberTorah] Appoint Judges and Police

Appoint Judges and Police

Appoint judges and police in all the places God is giving you…Justice, justice you shall pursue that you may thrive! (Dt. 16:18,20)

These words from Torah are a marvelous example of how Torah functions on multiple interlocking levels in a few concise words. God says appoint judges and police. Without ethical judges and laws, chaos reigns. For a society to thrive, they must have justice and systems of justice. Rashi says we repeat the word justice to teach we must put effort into creating and finding just courts. We have seen today what happens when policemen act violently and when judges act unjustly. We must put effort into ethical policing and just judging.

We must pursue justice even when it may harm our own limited interests. Ibn Ezra teaches that one must pursue justice whether one gains or loses. Our society must be one that wants justice. Each individual has an ethical task of orienting themselves to pursue justice even if a specific outcome may bring them loss or harm. Justice works when the culture pursues it assertively and always.

There is a spiritual level. The Hasidim teach that appointing policemen and judges means to guard carefully our actions and our speech. We must judge our own behavior and we must police our words and deeds. When we are aware of the choices we are making we create the possibility of policing our own deeds. By being careful of our own choices, we can improve our own integrity of action. 

Each level influences the other. When there are ethical courts and good policing, justice is easier to pursue. When we pursue justice, ethical courts become easier to establish. And all are built on our own willingness to put in the work of policing and judging our own behavior so that we can indeed thrive.

I suggest the following practice:

  1. Begin with a journal or daily check in about your own choices. What are some of your intentions for the day? In what ways have your deeds matched your intentions? Judge yourself with compassion and faith and integrity, but judge. 
    • As you judge, be open to the failings and remember to count the successes. I am sure there are times you could have done better, and I am sure there are times you did wonderfully. True judging sees both.
  2. Second, how can you police your own words and deeds to better match your intentions?  
    • Think about some obstacles to your behavior. What gets in the way? What helps you do well?
    • Are there ways you can police yourself better, by bringing more into your life of what strengthens you and less of what distracts or pulls you away from intention?

From these two daily practices, I believe we can start a process of growth and change that will bring us to the holidays more aware of our choices and how we can grow. This will prepare us to pursue justice, truly, wholly and with our most sacred self.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi David Booth

Wed, June 19 2024 13 Sivan 5784