Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof

Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may live. (Deut. 16:20)

Why "justice" twice?

To teach us: Pursue the goal of justice through means that are just.

And to teach us: Justice for our selves. And justice for the other.

On September 11 we were assaulted, violently and atrociously. The shields of our great oceans were breached. Not since 1815 have Americans died on our own soil at the hands of violent attackers from overseas.

We are overwhelmed by grief, fear, shock, and anger.

So overwhelmed that it is easy for leaders to call for a Long War against some unspecified enemy.

The terrorists must be identified, arrested, tried, and punished.

By means that are just.

It is not just to kill hundreds or thousands of innocent people in order to revenge ourselves. And a war will almost certainly not capture the terrorists themselves.

But war will cancel out the budding energies to end the sweatshopping of industry after industry, end the poisoning of our earth and air and water, end the challenges to top-down corporate globalism that wrecks jobs and forests and healthy bodies alike.

War will probably not achieve a just goal, and war will fail the test of just means.

There are alternatives. Just one possibility: Assemble the evidence and present it to the UN Security Council as if it were a grand jury. Ask for an arrest warrant against the accused, demand their extradition. If it is refused, then use the most limited force necessary to make the arrest.

That is far more likely to achieve justice — by just means.

Besides meting out justice to the terrorists, what must we do?

Terrorism thrives in pools of pain, of rage and desperation. That is no excuse; it is a diagnosis.

To diminish terrorism, we must address the pain, must drain the pools of rage and desperation.

Of course not every demand becomes legitimate, just because it is an expression of pain. But we must open the ears of our hearts to ask: Have we had a hand in creating the pain? Can we act to lighten it?

The attacks have shown us that our broadest oceans, tallest buildings, greatest wealth, most deadly weapons cannot shield us. We are in fact vulnerable. Can we reach out to the rest of a vulnerable world and help to meet the decent needs of all its peoples?

Instead of entering upon a "war of civilizations," we must pursue a planetary peace.