The New Shul

Parshat Shoftim

This week’s parashah, Shoftim, teaches: “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” The language is unusual.Normally the Torah teaches us what we should or should not do. Why in this case does it teach us what we should pursue?

In a world where good and evil are always mixed, where truth is always incomplete, and where perfect justice is unattainable, we struggle against two opposite temptations. One temptation is to imagine that we can cut through all the shades of gray, that we can know the whole truth, when in fact we can know only part of it. That is the way of arrogance.

The other temptation is to give up, to surrender to uncertainty and stop searching for the good, to stop trying to improve the world at all. That is the way of cynicism.

To pursue justice is the middle way. It means conceding that we cannot fully catch it, that the ideal remains elusive. At the same time, it means accepting the obligation to chase it nonetheless. As Rabbi Tarfon taught, we are not obligated to complete the work, but we are not free to give up on it either. That middle path, neither arrogant nor cynical, is where we find our true humanity.

  • The New Shul’s Shabbat services are on Friday evenings from 6 to 7 pm, and on Saturday mornings from 9 am to 12 noon. This Shabbat, September 7, the kiddush-lunch will be sponsored by Simon Chamberlain and Leah Zigmond in honor of their son Amit’s bar mitzvah last month at Camp Stein. The desserts will be sponsored by Michael and Jennie Kronenfeld in honor of their wedding anniversary, and by Selma Strier in honor of her daughters.
  • Childcare is available on Shabbat mornings from 10 am to noon.
  • Minyanim during the week are on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am, and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7 pm.