Sunday, 28 September 2008

Shoftim 6th September 2008

This Shabbat we read Shoftim which translates as Judges. It refers to a passage in the Torah at Deuteronomy Chapter 16 vs 20 which says: "Justice, justice shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."

Justice in Hebrew is Tzedek. Tzedek is the root of the word Tzedaka which is commonly translated as charity, but Tzedek also means righteousness and justice. Therefore charity can be equated with justice.

Charity not only includes giving money or time, but in a wider sense includes being charitable to another person. Being charitable in this sense involves giving the other person the benefit of the doubt, or perhaps listening more carefully to what they have to say, or enquiring after the other person’s health and wellbeing. This is a just way of behaving, ie a way that is guided by truth, reason, justice and fairness (ref Being just in this way leads to life (“that thou mayest live”). So in order to live, one must be just and charitable. Note here that I am referring to really living, not simply surviving. Really living for me means constant striving to be and remain “Israel” and achieving self-actualization as defined by Maslow. This self actualization includes the basics of life plus safety, loving/belonging, self esteem, respect of self and others, morality, creativity, spontaneity, lack of prejudice, etc.

The next thing that is referred to is the land that though mayest inherit. Besides the land of Israel which we often think of as the country Israel, there is another land. Part of my thesis is that Jacob became Israel in Genesis 32:29. So could it be that the land being referred to here is also the emotional, mental, and spiritual states that our bodies can attain as we move from being Jacobs (unenlightened) to becoming Israels (enlightened)?

Therefore in order to live a full and rewarding life, one should pursue Tzedek and Tzedaka. One should not accept the status quo, but constantly seek to make one’s world a better place, thus leaving one’s world and the wider world better than when one entered it.

If you’d like more information about Jacob becoming Israel, please email me on

Love and a peaceful weekend and Shabbat

David Lipschitz

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