Moishe Moment — September 10, 2016

Shabbat Shalom Moishe House! 
Shabbat Shoftim 
7 Elul 5776/Sep. 10, 2016

This weeks Moishe Moment comes from Tanya Zaytseva, Moishe House’s Director of Education in the Former Soviet Union.

Justice, Justice shall you pursue! This is one of the most famous lines of the Torah. This week we read that call along with the instruction to appoint Judges. I am immediately reminded of another passage from a classic of Russian literature Griboedov`s “Woe From Wit”. Alexander Chatsky, protagonist of the play, starts his famous monologue with a question: “I wonder who the judges are?” (you can read an English translation of the play here) and follows with the accusation of everything these judges have committed. Somehow these two texts coming from two vastly different cultures, separated by millennia, intersect seeking justice. In Chatsky`s reality judges are completely corrupted and estranged from their people. Judges are everything that Torah warns us about — far from everyone, greedy, entrenched in bribes and sins… and yet they are to judge and rule the common people. He becomes a prophet for his generation; able to see something wicked in the whole system. His fate takes on the usual destiny of those who are brave enough to tell the truth…he is forced to leave, unable to fight the opposing powers.

There is a strong resemblance in his character to the biblical prophets — his passion, his words, his actions and his search for justice. Who were those prophets who told the truth, who were seeking relief from oppression? The age of the biblical prophets is long gone and stayed only in our sacred texts, but what they left behind is the potential for each human being to detect injustice. To detect that which needs to be brought to light in order to be fixed, to unearth something that hides in all shades of dark and wants to stay there. And you do not need to be a prophet or have the X-Ray vision of an X-man to allow you to see the injustice; it is a simple desire to get involved in something that needs your attention, needs your input, and needs your word to alert others. Seeking justice is never an easy process, it does not promise pleasure walks and nice talks. Instead, it most probably will bring antagonism and rejection. However, inside the imperative for seeking justice lays a very important prophecy that the one who is looking for justice will “inherit the land.” Metaphorically this land may be a community of likeminded people who are looking for a better place to live, a renewed town or city, or healthier and kinder relations between people and even countries. It doesn’t matter if we are in a position to judge or we see an injustice, we can use the imperative of this Torah portion to step forward and try to fix it, thus healing the world and making it a little bit better place to live in for everyone.