Shoftim: Pursuing Justice at Camp and Beyond

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by Rabbi Liz P.G. Hirsch, Assistant Director

In this week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, we read the words “Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof” – Justice, justice shall you pursue (Deuteronomy 16:20). The Torah is quite economical in its language – every 13613334_10154263467158389_1082445178747501053_oword is written painstakingly by hand, and many exciting episodes from our biblical history are actually quite brief when read in the original. The Torah repeats words for emphasis, and we hardly see a better example than this often-quoted phrase. We emphasize the importance of justice as an organizing principle of Jewish life for thousands of years. This value is especially essential to Reform Judaism and evident at our URJ Camps. Each summer, we learn to live by our mission statement – it is not your duty to complete the work [of repairing the world], but neither are you free to desist from it – “Lo alecha hamlacha ligmor, v’lo ata ben chorin l’heebateil mimena.” Each summer, we volunteer in the local community: in food pantries, community gardens, and senior centers. Each summer, we learn about what we can do back home, outside of the camp “bubble,” to work on important issues: from gun violence prevention, to poverty, to civil rights.

The pursuit of justice is an organizing principle of camp – and we always have fun while we work to make the world a better place. And in the mix, we offer every kind of amazing summer activity imaginable – we swim, boat, hike, dance, play sports, create beautiful art and music, hike, learn, pray, and laugh together. The value of justice is the glue that holds our community together, as above all else, we learn to treat each other with love, respect, and equality.

Shabbat shalom!