Pursuing justice by walking the middle path


This week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, gives instructions to judges about how to “pursue justice.” In particular, the Torah advises judges to avoid partiality to any side. They are not to favor the poor out of sympathy or the rich out of fear, and they are not to take bribes that might affect their judgment. Instead, they are to judge equitably, keeping in mind all of the competing interests and pressures that may be at play, and maintaining their focus on the good of society as a whole. This focus on trying to make decisions for the good of society as a whole, even though it may not satisfy some individuals, is not just for judges. All of us make judgments and come to decisions, and all of us can be overly influenced by either our sympathies or our fears. Torah asks us to try our best to set those aside so that we can see our way to the greater good and make decisions that advance justice for all. In this month of Elul, as we approach the High Holidays, may we have the insight to follow this path as we make decisions about the paths our own lives may take and how we will interact with others in the year ahead.