Monday, August 23, 2004

Shoftim: Tzedek, tzedek tirdof . . . and exceptions to the rule

Here’s a well-known quote from Deuteronomy, chapter 16, verse 20: “Justice, justice shall you follow.” (This can also be translated, “Righteousness, righteousness you will pursue.) This parsha is full of admonitions to deal justly with all, protect the accidental manslaughterer from the family’s revenge, and ensure respect for the unknown dead found between cities. (As atonement for the blood that was shed, the nearest city was to break a calf’s neck. Personally, I feel sorry for the poor calf.) But there was this gaping hole in the pursuit of justice or righteousness—there were those six indigenous peoples who were supposed to be slaughtered wholesale. This was not one of the Jewish people’s finer moments. Anyone who thinks that the Torah is a whitewash job ought to have his/her head examined.


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