Here is an excerpt of my remarks from the evening:
Deuteronomy 16:20 famous proclaims: tzedek tzedek tirdof: justice, justice shall you pursue.
Over the last two millennia, our rabbis have commented on the doubled use of tzedek…why does the Torah use the word twice?
One explanation is that justice is something we yearn for here at home…and also something we desire for the world around us. This certainly applies to the legislation we are contemplating this evening…as we express gratitude for being able to mark the 20th anniversary of the landmark Violence Against Women Act here at home. And yet, we acknowledge that more work likes ahead, as we seek to do our part to protect vulnerable victims of domestic violence around the world.
I also want to offer up my own explanation as to the doubling of the word tzedek in our Torah…What if the first cry for justice is the one that comes from our lips, directed at God in frustration and heartache: when we recognize the brokenness of our world, and pray that God might do something about it.
And what if God’s response to our demand for tzedek! was tzedek tirdof – As if God is saying: My response is that you can deal with it. You get involved. You stand up, take the initiative, be the miracle worker and be the change agent. You be my shaliach, my agent, in this matter. You pursue the justice that needs to be pursued.
In three words, the Torah encapsulates the innate partnership that exists between God and the Jewish people. We call out to God, dreaming of a better world…And God responds, by empowering and encouraging us to take responsibility.
We are reminded of that conversation when we blow the shofar during this High Holy Day season of renewal. The blowing of the shofar is the first tzedek: it is us calling out to God….begging for God to make this world a better place.
And the shofar is God’s response….tzedek tirdof…God calling back to us, not-so-gently nudging us to do it, for us to take responsibility for the work of tikkun, of healing and perfecting our world.
As you listen to the blasts, tonight and in the coming days, may the shofar’s ancient sounds also call out to you, and invite you to join the age-old conversation between us and God about justice and what it means to make our world a holier, and more whole, place.
Tekiah, shevarim, truah, tikiyah gdolah