Shoftim – Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9 – The Torah portion (parashat ha shavuah) for Shabbat, Saturday, Aug. 30

For Judaism, society must be founded on justice (tzedekin Hebrew). Our word for giving money istzedakah.It does not mean charity, although that is how it is often translated. Charity comes from the Latin word caritas, which comes from the word for heart, cor, and means altruistic love. Charity is connected to the heart and giving charity is based on how we feel. Buttzedakahis based on the divine call to make the world more just. Thus we are obligated to give money to help the poor. That is how we create a more just society. In this week’s Torah portion we read, “Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Our rabbis wondered why the word justice is repeated twice. They answered that this teaches us that justice must be applied fairly to all whether it is to our advantage or our disadvantage; personal interest or gain can play no part. A society that treats all its members with justice will grow and thrive because everyone will feel they have a fair chance to succeed. A society that treats some of its members better than others will ultimately collapse as resentment and mistrust cause the bonds of social solidarity to erode.