Parshat Shoftim: Goodness as justice (II)

“Justice, justice shall you follow, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God gives you.” (Deuteronomy 16:20)

We know that the reason for justice is to make goodness prevail. Evil doers and the wicked are brought to justice for them to know that goodness is what gives meaning to life. Correctional centers exist to redirect a negative and destructive mindset into a positive and constructive attitude towards life, to properly interact with other for the sake of the common well being.

The original purpose for imprisonment or isolation from the community was to make the transgressor fully aware that freedom is inherent in goodness; hence, the more we live in it, the more we are free.

Unfortunately, this original conception of imprisonment as a reeducating experience to recognize the value of goodness has not been properly applied, except during the children of Israel’s years in the desert of Sinai and their settling in the Promised Land.

Reflecting on the quoted verse, Moses tells us that the more our procurement of justice, the more we value goodness as the premise to inherit the land God gave us to settle in. Traditionally, justice is more related to peace than to goodness because we usually approach peace as the harmonious coexistence among the peoples.

Actually is goodness what brings us to individual and collective peace, and the latter is the outcome of the former. Thus we realize that the Promised Land is certainly goodness as the reason and purpose for living in this world. It is what our Creator wants us to experience and enjoy as the common denominator of the diversity that makes us unique in every way.

(…) and you shall exterminate the evil from Israel.” (17:12)

This commandment that God orders the children of Israel is fundamental to understand one of the essential differences between Judaism and other beliefs. Judaism does not condone evil, compromise or compliant with evil, simply because is the human condition where goodness is absent, making human life meaningless.

We assimilate this commandment as a condition to live in the goodness inherent in the Promised Land. Hence the ethical guidelines and ground rules that define Judaism by the Torah.

God commands us to remember every day six episodes in our history that motivate us to exercise the Jewish identity, and all are related to pursuing goodness.

The Exodus from Egypt was our liberation from the evil oppression of Pharaoh and his people.

God gave us the Torah as the instruction to procure goodness and to settle us in the Promised Land to live in goodness.

Amalek’s evil attack on the children of Israel reminds us that we can’t afford the luxury to allow evil or cohabit with it because evil causes our destruction and death.

The making of the Golden Calf reminds us of living by negative traits and trends derived from ego’s fantasies and illusions. A materialistic approach to life makes goodness useless and unnecessary, except for subordinating it to evil for negative purposes.

What God did to Miriam on the journey when we left Egypt is the punishment of the isolation we impose to ourselves when we speak negatively against each other’s differences. Our differences do not make us higher or lower than others. As we respect and appreciate the positive expressions of every one, being beneficial for the individual and collective goodness, negative talk diminishes it. This makes us aware that everybody’s individual goodness benefits all in one way or the other.

And we are also commanded to remember the Sabbath every day because it is the culmination of goodness in every aspect of life. We strive to be, to have and to do goodness as the purpose of the greater goodness that awaits us every seventh day of the week.

This is the day where goodness is the stillness, quietness and tranquility we find in the peace that only goodness provides. Hence we say that day Shabbat shalom, for in the special unfathomable quality of the Sabbath day we are truly complete and wholesome in the awareness of being in God’s place.

We are God’s chosen to make goodness prevail in this world, and for that purpose God’s goodness is always with us, as our Prophets also remind us.

“And I put My words in your mouth, and with the shadow of My hand have covered you to establish the heavens and to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘My people, you’.” (Isaiah 51:16)

“I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord. They will be My people and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with all their heart.” (Jeremiah 24:7)

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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