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By Avi Lazerson
This week's Torah portion begins with the double admonishment, "Justice, justice, you shall persue." The word "justice" is used twice for no seemingly purpose. Now there are those who may ascribe this to the "literary prose style" of the Torah. However, those who seek deeper explanations realize that the Torah is the will of God revealed in print; there is no word or letter that is meaningless in the Torah; therefore, there must be a rational reason that the word justice is used twice when once would have sufficed.
As we look around us at the various nations of the world, and as we study history, we are amazed and appalled at the concepts of justice. How many nations and civilizations have used means which were dishonest and violent to achieve their goals. Whether it was the Communist revolution, which proported to bring equality to the masses, or the French revelutions, or the many polictical coups in Latin America, etc; all used unjust methods to achieve their goals. But, do the "ends" justify the "means"? Can we also use non kosher means to achieve kosher ends? Can we use forbidden means as a manner to come close to God?
"Justice, justice, you shall persue." The Torah is telling us that we must use only righteous means to achieve the righteous end. Do not think that lying and cheating will bring you closer to God. Don't think that the goal that you are persuing is so important to God that He will forgive an improper method of achieving that goal. God is not interested in your achieving a goal with no consideration to the means. The true method of becoming close to God is through using only those means which He, in the Torah, allows. To use a forbidden means to fulfil the desires of God is short circiuting the Torah commandments.
"Justice, justice, you shall persue." To achieve justice, you must use justice means. The ability to succeed is totally in the hands of God. It is for us to try our best, yet to realize that He, and only He, can grant us success.
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Don't Get Too Confident
by Chaim Lobel
(Deuteronomy: Chapter 20, Verse 8) The officers shall add in speaking and say, “Who is the man that is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, and let him not melt the heart of his brothers, like his heart.”
This verse is in reference to one who is exempt from fighting in Jewish wars. Most commentaries quote Rebbe Yossi Hagelili’s explanation of the verse, “the fearful and fainthearted of the sins that are in his hands (Tractate Sotah 44b).” G-d promises victory and tells us not to be afraid (chapter 20, verses 1-4). This individual may feel that he will not merit G-d’s salvation because of his past actions. He is therefore pardoned from military services.
The Ohr Hachaim (commenting on verse 8) explains Rebbe Yossi Hagelili. “Even if one does not know that he has sins, the fear of war that enters his heart will inform him that he has sins.”
It is understood that before entering war a solider reflects upon his past. In terms of his relationship with G-d, it makes him realize that he cannot continue to be confident. If he has sins, fear will make him realize what he should have always known.
The human dynamic works in irrational ways. One gets a false sense of his righteousness when things are easy and normal. It takes a certain reality to realize the truth. A worthy thought for the upcoming High Holidays.
Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom!
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