Monday, 18 January 2016

Justice, justice – part two

I wrote about our granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah that took place earlier this year.  As I mentioned, she read from the Torah and her portion was about justice.  She also had to deliver a D’var Torah, a talk about the section that she read. This is a daunting task for anyone, let alone a 12 year old – to write it and then to deliver it to a large audience, which will range from the very knowledgeable to those from other religions for whom this is quite new.

This day was the culmination of several years at religion classes but also a year of instruction from the Rabbi. The Rabbi spoke to the congregation and told them that in her life she has learned from her teachers, from her colleagues but most of all from her pupils. I agree - it was interesting to see how a young woman (which our granddaughter is now) brings relevance and immediacy to a script which is thousands of years old. I hope she won’t mind if I quote from her speech (which, by the way, was delivered with confidence, clarity and aplomb!!) 

“Today we read Torah Shoftim which is about Law, Justice and how we behave:  ‘Zedek  Zedek  Tirdof ‘ which means “Justice - Justice shall you pursue!  Why justice twice?  Some people think it’s to repeat justice so you definitely hear it. Other people think it is so that we remember to be just in the way we go about our pursuit of justice in our lives and the lives of our community.

She outlined how Moses knew that he couldn’t always be the one to judge things and gave the Jews instructions about what to do and what not to do! This covered the appointment of judges and the behaviour of the King; witnesses and testimony and even rules of war.  If you want to read more about this you will find it in Deuteronomy.

She went on to say “Justice is not only about making laws. They have to be written down and we need to be sure that they are followed.  Justice is also not only for some people but has to be equally for everyone, including children. A few years ago I went to a children’s workshop organized by the Kinderburo in Basel. They try to make sure that children are part of the discussion about what is happening in our city and listen to our views because they think that is the only way that we will learn to live as part of a community. We had some interesting discussions about children’s rights which is something that we take for granted living here in Switzerland, in Europe and America. 

We drew postcards illustrating different kinds of children’s rights on them.  I chose to draw a card showing how every child has the right to have a name and be a citizen of a place! Did you know that that are at least 10 million people across the world who are stateless because of war or politics?  

(What she didn’t say was that her card was one of those selected for reproduction and distribution.) 
She concluded by saying, ”I think the important part of justice is that we mustn’t be selfish and we must try to be fair. We mustn’t only think of how something affects ourselves but also our families, our friends and our community. In that way we will truly be pursuing justice.

I agree with the Rabbi. We have much to learn.

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