A Guilty Verdict in a Broken World

Following Derek Chauvin being convicted of the murder of George Floyd earlier this week, my colleague, Rabbi Michael Bernstein, reminded me of this relevant teaching in the Talmud:   “Rabbi Shimon the son of Lakish pitted two verses against each other ‘With justice shall you judge your neighbor.’ (Leviticus 19:15) and ‘Justice, justice you shall pursue.’ (Deuteronomy 16:20)” (Sanhedrin 32b) Rabbi Shimon struggled because he felt that these two biblical verses teach us to do very different things. The first verse expects us to establish a judicial process that fairly resolves issues within our communities. The second verse expects us to engage in the ongoing pursuit of justice. So, if we follow the first verse and establish a fair judicial process, why do we need to continuously engage in this pursuit? Rabbi Shimon’s struggle led him to the answer that is so important for us to understand today: “with justice shall you judge your…