Parashat Shoftim is perhaps most well known for the verse containing the commandment, Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” It is popular because it expresses a notion that is at the core of Judaism and Jewish practice.
It is an idea that we can all get behind, but when it comes to putting it into action, it is a little more complicated. First, not everyone agrees on what justice might be in a given case. Second, we have a well-established legal system to which we turn in order to administer affairs of justice. Third, there is a not-so-fine line between pursuing justice and vigilantism.
Despite the “messy” nature of justice, the Torah exhorts us–repeating the word justice–to pursue it. As we are in the month of Elul, it is worth thinking about how we do or do not follow this commandment. We should ask ourselves, “when was the last time I pursued justice?” Can we remember what it was or when it was? If not, it means that we must recommit to the pursuit of justice despite the obstacles.
“Justice, justice shall you pursue,” is not just a platitude. It is at the core of how we must live our lives.