At beginning of Deuteronomy, Moses reviews the history of the Israelites' experience in the wilderness, beginning with the appointment of leaders throughout the people, heads of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. He continues: [this and following verse]. Thus at the outset of the book in which he summarized the entire history of Israel and its destiny as a holy people, he already gave priority to the administration of justice, something he would memorably summarize in a later chapter (Deuteronomy 16:20) with the words, "Justice, justice, shall you pursue." The words for justice, tzedek and mishpat, are recurring themes of the book. The root TZ-D-K appears eighteen times in Deuteronomy; the root SH-F-T forty-eight times. Justice has seemed, throughout the generations, to lie at the beating heart of the Jewish faith. ... Three features mark Judaism as a distinctive faith. First is the radical idea that when G-d reveals Himself to humans He does so in the form of law. In the ancient world, G-d was power. In Judaism, G-d is order, and order presupposes law. In the natural world of cause-and-effect, order takes the form of scientific law. But in the human world, where we have free will, order takes the form of moral law.… Second, we are charged with being interpreters of the law. That is our responsibility as heirs and guardians of the Torah Shebe'al Peh, the Oral Tradition.… Third, fundamental to Judaism is education, and fundamental to education is instruction in Torah, that is, the law. ... To be a Jewish child is to be, in the British phrase, "learned in the law." We are a nation of constitutional lawyers. Why? Because Judaism is not just about spirituality. It is not simply a code for the salvation of the soul. It is a set of instructions for the creation of what the late Rabbi Aharon Liechtenstein called "societal beatitude." It is about bringing G-d into the shared spaces of our collective life. That needs law: law that represents justice, honouring all humans alike regardless of colour or class; law that judges impartially between rich and poor, powerful and powerless, even in extremis between humanity and G-d; law that links G-d, its giver, to us, its interpreters; law that alone allows freedom to coexist with order, so that my freedom is not bought at the cost of yours. Small wonder, then, that there are so many Jewish lawyers.
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