Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Justice – Page 2



shoftimOur world is results-oriented.  We are used to productivity as a measure of what’s good and right.  Whether it’s writing software that does what we want it to do or closing a business deal, our environment celebrates the ‘bottom line’ far more than it judges the methods used getting there.

The beginning of Shoftim, this week’s Torah portion, contains instructions for judicial proceedings.  We are commanded to “pursue justice justly”.  Not only are the judges enjoined to focus on a just outcome, but also the litigants themselves are reminded that their pursuit of justice must be done legitimately.  Justice cannot result if one party alters the facts the tiniest bit,  just to make his case simpler, even if he knows he is right.

Focusing on the bottom line and results is only part of the story.  We need to pursue what is good and right even in the methods we use to accomplish our goals.  A business transaction must be done with honesty.  If there’s something wrong with the house or car you’re selling, tell the buyer.  Maybe this particular buyer will back out, but someone else will come along who’ll appreciate your honesty and will be confident that now he knows exactly what to expect.  Moreover, he or she will be right!

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about valuing correct behavior.  A good end does not justify the wrong means.


  • Why does a court always require complete evidence even if it seems obvious who is at fault?
  • How do you feel when you purchase something that has been misrepresented?
  • Would you be likely to shop again in a store where the truth was not told?
  • How much would you trust a friend who often stretches the truth or misrepresents?

By Rabbi Moshe Becker

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.



devarim2We often jump to conclusions.  A child walks into a new class and quickly decides who is ‘cool’ and who is not.  We may witness an interaction between spouses or a parent and child and immediately decide that someone is being abusive or disrespectful, even though we lack any knowledge of the context. Sometimes our judgment calls are on target and sometimes they aren’t.

 In Devarim, this week’s Torah portion, Moses recounts the instructions he gave to the first group of judges he appointed. These instructions are repeated to remind us of their importance and timelessness.  Moses emphasizes the importance of listening – paying close attention and patiently listening to all sides. The judge must ignore external factors and do his best to learn as much as he can about the litigants and their arguments. Only then is he qualified to judge. If he can’t accomplish this, he must consult with a higher ranking judge.

We are all judges. We are hard-wired to make quick decisions about things happening around us. This is a crucial capacity when one is in danger, but this ability can be a handicap in one’s relationships. When it comes to other people, we must be careful to learn as much as we can about them and their circumstances before forming opinions. The not-cool kid in the class may very well become your closest friend!

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the uniqueness of every individual and the complexity of every situation.  Listen, evaluate, consider.


  • Have you ever had your opinion of someone change after getting to know the person  better?
  • Have you ever felt that others jumped to conclusions about you?
  • Think of a situation that would look bad if a person watching doesn’t know the facts.

By Rabbi Moshe Becker

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.