Parashat Shoftim begins with the Israelites almost entering the Promised Land. Moses instructs the people of Israel to appoint judges and law enforcement officers in every city, citing the oft-quoted phrase “tzedek tzedek tirdof” or “justice, justice shall you pursue.” Additionally, Moses details rules related to the investigation of crimes as well as to who is chosen to interpret and apply the laws of the Torah. Finally, this parsha creates guidelines for the creation of “cities of refuge” for those who have inadvertently committed murder.
But, let’s go back to the phrase “tzedek tzedek tirdof” (or “justice justice shall you pursue.”) Why repeat justice twice? This extra emphasis must mean something, right? To me, this phrase has defined the Jewish people for centuries. Tikkun olam, or repairing the world, is a key component of Judaism and living Jewishly. As the Jewish people, we do not wait for opportunities for justice; we seek them out. It is part of our heritage and it is our duty to help make the world a better place.
College is a time of exploration. In the current political and social landscape, there are opportunities everywhere for students to pursue justice and become involved. As Hillel professionals working with college students today, I feel we should strive to help students find something they are passionate about and help make the world a better place in any small way they can, from marching in the streets, to writing to Congress, to volunteering locally. As the quote often contributed to Gandhi says, “be change you wish to see in the world,” and may we all continue to put double the emphasis on our pursuit of justice.
Hannah Sherman is the director of student life at Santa Barbara Hillel.