Thursday, September 04, 2008

Shoftim 5631 Second Ma'amar

צֶדֶק צֶדֶק תִּרְדֹּף .../You shall pursue justice, only justice …” (Devarim 16:20) What is the meaning of the redundancy in this pasuk? The Sfas Emes explains that there is no limit to the levels of justice and truth that can be obtained. The pasuk is requiring us to obtain truth and justice at as deep a level as we possibly can. Justice is associated with truth.[1] Yirmayahu said that God is truth.[2] Since God is infinite, it follows that there is no limit to the levels of truth that can be attained.

Conventionally we think of truth and justice as straightforward concepts. If one says on a bright morning that the sun is shining, he has spoken the truth. If a thief is made to return stolen goods, justice has been served. What is meant by deeper levels of truth? What if a person is fulfilling mitzvos but not really thinking about what he is doing? Are his actions truthful? What if a person prays but has no intention of using prayer as a means to come close to the Creator? Is his prayer truthful? When one visits another who is ill but has no intention of fulfilling the mitzvah of loving a fellow Jew, is there not an element of falsehood in his action?

When our intentions or actions are at odds with our reason for being, they contain an element of falsehood. Truth, the Sfas Emes explains, is reached when a person’s entire being is completely devoted to serving God. The word truth itself – אֱמֶת – alludes to this because it comprises the first, middle and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, all the letters with which the Torah, representing serving God, is written.

The Holy Jew of Parshischa[3] explains the redundancy differently. He says that a person should pursue justice with justice rather than through falsehood. The Torah is teaching us that regarding the pursuit of justice, the end does not justify the means. The process is as important as the goal and therefore must also move forward with justice.

May we merit ridding ourselves of the lies we live and leading truth filled lives!

[1] See Ramban ad loc.; Bahir 75-77;

[2] Yirmiyahu 10:10

[3] Rav Simcha Bunim of Parshischa, teacher of Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk and Rav Mordechei Yosef of Ishbitz

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