Parsha Shoftim — Pursue Zedek
Today the role of Judges and the Police are coming under increased criticism and politicization.
There are two aspects I want to highlight in the opening paragraph of this week’s Parsha.
שֹׁפְטִ֣ים וְשֹֽׁטְרִ֗ים תִּֽתֶּן־לְךָ֙ בְּכׇל־שְׁעָרֶ֔יךָ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יְהֹוָ֧ה אֱלֹהֶ֛יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לְךָ֖ לִשְׁבָטֶ֑יךָ וְשָׁפְט֥וּ אֶת־הָעָ֖ם מִשְׁפַּט־צֶֽדֶק׃
You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that your God יהוה is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due (fair) justice.
Ø You shall choose
Ø So that will be a fair judgment
So, here we have democracy. Not appointing or voting for politicians, but the people should choose the judges and policemen. I.e., they should be accountable to the people. They shall judge fairly!! Emphasis on fairness.
There is also a calling for all of us to pursue justice.
צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף לְמַ֤עַן תִּֽחְיֶה֙ וְיָרַשְׁתָּ֣ אֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לָֽךְ׃
Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that your God יהוה is giving you.
Again, these Laws are central to living in the Land. Central to Zionism. That is the pursuit of Zedek — Justice.
“What is the meaning of the word — “In modern Hebrew, tzedek צדק and tzedakah צדקה have very different meanings. Tzedek is “justice, which is obligatory and compels all. Tzedaka is “charity”, which is praiseworthy, but voluntary. (In Jewish law, giving charity, in general, is obligatory, but the amount given and the intended recipient is left to the donor’s discretion.)
Both words are found in biblical Hebrew. Tzedek is found 119 times in the Bible, and tzedaka appears 157 times. In the Bible, they are essentially synonyms. They both refer to righteousness and justness.”
This week in Basel was a Conference marking the 125th anniversary of the first World Zionist conference.
Quoting President Herzog in his speech. “And now, brothers and sisters, I wish to focus on the final pillar: our duty to claim positive and proactive ownership over Zionism, especially now: to reclaim Zionism.
We must breathe new meaning into the term ‘Zionism.’ The meaning of Zionism is chiefly responsibility. Responsibility for our deep-rooted Jewish identity as individuals; responsibility for our cohesion as a diverse, opinionated people, whose deep and binding connection to its ancestral land, Zion, finds expression in the name ‘Zionism’; responsibility for the existence and prosperity of the Jewish and democratic State of Israel, the ultimate sovereign and political expression of the Zionist movement; and no less importantly, responsibility for the fact that we are part of the family of nations, in an effort to help solve the greatest challenges of humanity, bequeathing Tikkun Olam to the whole world. ‘Instruction shall come forth from Zion!’ (Isaiah 2:3)”
The idea was to highlight that Zionism is relevant and important.
Israel today is a vibrant innovative and culturally strong country. Not perfect but is fertile soil for setting a higher standard of Justice and Kindness — Zedek.
It is a young state with imbalances. It is essential to move on from petty politics of achieving sixty-one seats and focus on the Israel or Zionist vision.
And the foundation of this is the Torah and God. And this discussion is so much needed today in our fractured world.
I want to go back to ESG. ESG as it is today misunderstood and failing. The ideas are noble, but without Justice, Ethics, and Moral underpinnings it is doomed to fail.
I was at a talk on Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook’s house commemorating his 87th yahrzeit.
The following questions were asked?
· Is Judaism Socialist, Capitalistic or Communistic?
· Why do have rich and poor?
One possible answer-
We are blessed with wealth to deal with the challenge and opportunity for Zedek — Charity.
As Maimonides wrote.
“The highest form of charity is to give a gift, loan, or partnership that will result in the recipient becoming self-sufficient instead of living upon others”
The 12th Century Jewish Sage the Rambam (Maimonides)
Providing somebody with Livelihood is the highest form of Livelihood. i.e., the S in ESG — Social.
So, here we move to the word — Impact. Not just ESG, but Impact. Pursue Zedek — Justice. Kindness and Charity
The world and its people continue to exploit. Westerners exploited Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Even today there is exploitation by Capital markets favouring the US and Europe.
Time for a Reset. Time to pursue Zedek. Time to upgrade ESG into Impact. Time for ESG for Good.
I want to share what Kevin James wrote . Kevin is CEO at https://gcx.co.za/ a leading provider of ESG solutions.
“ Unfortunately, the word “exploit” and “Africa” appear too often in the same sentence. Africa is home to a lot more resources than solar and wind, we have the most fertile soils, and more minerals than any other continent, yet most of its people have been caught in a poverty trap for as long as big business has been “exploiting” the continent. It would be refreshing to use more positive language when talking about these things — unlocking value, capitalizing on etc., with a specific caveat that reads “for the benefit of African people”
It is interesting that Rabbi Sacks highlights Environmental responsibility from the teachings of this week’s Parsha.
“When you lay siege to a town and wage war against it for a long time to capture it, do not destroy its trees. do not wield an axe against them. You may eat from them; you must not cut them down. Are trees of the field human beings, that you should besiege them too? Only trees that you know do not produce food may you cut down for use building siege works until the town that has made war against you falls.”
We have an emphasis on Fruit Trees. We also have limits on land use (Environmental).
• Weekly on Shabbat
• Every seven years Shmitta
• Every 50 years Limits on Ownership- Yovel.
I am involved in a business promoting Fruit Tree farming in underdeveloped countries. Doing good and pursuing Profit (and Zedek). I am offering my services, Pro Bono, as this has a mission underpinned by the principles I have tried to articulate here.
Dream Valley’s mission is:
To improve farmers’ livelihood by increasing quality production, free of bio and chemical hazards, grown in a safe, eco-friendly environment, to enable consumers to enjoy better and healthier food and life.”
How do they do that? with Zionism.
Based on the Israeli agricultural model, Dream Valley supplies farmers in underdeveloped countries with dedicated tailor-made business models, ecosystems, services, and technologies that enable them to increase the $ value of production per hectare rapidly.
In a few months' time, Dream Valley is launching its crowdfunding campaign. https://www.dreamvalleyglobal.com/
If you are driven to pursue Zedek, this is your opportunity.
More inspiration. https://haorot.com/shoftim-creating-divine-society/