JOI Session | Dec. 4, 2009

We are digging into the Jewish legacy of social justice through biblical text study. To set the historical context, Rabbi Stephanie Kolin started our session with the first appearances of the concept of justice in ancient civilizations. We then worked through text from the Torah, the Prophets, and Writings. What does it mean that we are reminded over and over that we were once slaves in Egypt? To treat others as we would want to be treated? Why is the text, which is read by the ruling class, include a warning that the corrupted rulers are too far removed from the widow and orphan to even have the chance of experiencing empathy? And what are the texts trying to tell us when they lump the priests’ helpers, a highly respected population, in with the widows and orphans? And again, what is with all the repetition? We looked at different instances when “true justice” was evoked, when the human element is taken into consideration over strict constructs of written law. It is in this type of justice, the bringing together of righteousness and justice that we find an established equity. This word, mishrim, is closely rooted to the Mesopotamian misarum- a cosmic state of balance and what is closest to the order of creation.

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