In March of this year, researchers in Israel revealed newly discovered 2000-year-old Dead Sea Scroll fragments including the following lines from the prophet Zechariah: “These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates…”
A member of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Oren Ableman, in speaking to researchers at the Israel museum in Jerusalem about the find, said that the concept of equal justice for all was laid out in these verses that “are read by people and are meaningful to people to this very day.”
This essay marks the end of the Tzedek Project, but I see it not as an endgame but as a “beginning game.”
During this past year, we have been looking at the pursuit of justice in many different areas. From food insecurity to athletics, from the court system to restitution of looted artworks, our journey has examined many situations and many attempts to maintain and improve justice in our world. Some are successful, some need more work.
In the words of the poet, Amanda Gorman, from “The Hill We Climb,”
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace.
In the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow we do it.
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken,
but simply unfinished…”
The notion of our world being unfinished is tantalizing. Can we finish it? Should we finish it? How would we go about finishing it if we could? Rabbi Yehudah Leib Alter of Her teaches that “there is no final depth or end to justice and truth.”
The ongoing pursuit of justice belongs to all of us. We need to be vigilant, to speak out when injustice is in front of us, to avoid shortcuts…there are none. Support our local food banks, homeless shelters, social action groups. Be active politically.
The Lady of Justice has been portrayed artistically with a blindfold and a sword, signifying objectivity and power. She is blindfolded; we cannot afford to be.
“Tzedek, tzedek tirdof, l’maan tichyeh” – Justice, justice you shall pursue, that you may live.
Audrey Brooks is an Emeritus Judicial Member, State Bar of Wisconsin, lifelong volunteer, and current Tucson Hebrew Academy Board Chair.