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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

The Colors of Justice: Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

Parshat Shoftim is about justice and how to put justice into action by appointing judges and police who understand both the people and the law.

"Justice, justice you shall pursue" is mentioned at the beginning of this Parsha. It is hard to read these words and not write about them, but I could not find the vocabulary to do the concept justice.(no pun intended)

Sometimes asking people to create a visual representation of a concept helps to create a definition, so I sent out an email earlier this week asking people if they would quickly send me their own quick sketches of the concept of justice. I was grateful to receive a number and hope to receive more.

Even from this small sample I could learn something from this exercise. For a number of participants the image of the scales of justice were front and center, for this is the image that is associated with justice. For some, their own life experience created clear images in their minds of justice, or lack of justice. Equality, opportunity and respect for other's conditions seem to be common factors.

I hope that while you read this short and very imperfect poem about justice, that it will prompt you to consider what justice is to you and what role it plays in your life. During the month of Elul, when considering how we live our lives is paramount, I hope that you will consider the concept of justice and striving for justice.

If this poem moves you to think about this concept, I am still open to have you send me your quick stick figure sketches about justice. My email is

I thank you in advance.

צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף

Draw Me Justice

Draw me a picture of justice.

Now, before you overthink,

take out your imagination

and draw quickly.

What image pops?

Do you see one person's face?

A tome of books?

A courthouse?

A hammer?

A sword?

Do you draw with pencils,

black and white and so clear and sharp,

because that is what justice is,

or do you draw with bright colors,

greens, oranges, reds, blues

as they show the passion with which justice is pursued?

What are the hues of progress?


Can textures show how people strive for equality

and the shades of theories versus practice?


Such a short word.

So sharp on the tongue that it can cut.

What is the shape of Tzedek?

Hard words carved into stone


Is there symmetry in your drawing?

Is your drawing splattered with irony?

Layers of resentment?

Sprinkled with details of law?

What are the shapes of equality,

the colors of honesty and truth

and above all,

how do you sketch trust?

How do you show that

justice means equal?

or justice mean fair?

Tzedek, tzedek

Justice repeated twice.






One time to hear


one time to be internalized

so it lives inside of you.


a word shaped like a foot,

ready to pursue and chase;

the color of sweat,

of persistence.

Tzedek, tzedek tirdof

justice is about people.

Tirdof is the chase,

never quite there,

but always pursuing.

The hardness of pencil blended

with the softness of blended colors.

Picture it.

Pencil it,

color it.


Work for it.

Chase after it.

with your life.

Pursue it...

for others

with all the colors of the wind.

Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof


Is Justice when we bring the sky to the earth and there I would see how to give without receiving. When I would see the light in yours eyes. Justice when we would understand that we are just we are and see the souls in the earth 🌍

Rena Gray Fein

Justice = Justice for you and Justice for me.


Ellen Krueger

Lisa Fliegel

a photograph of hope for justice taken by my son John who was ultimately unable to transcend the deficits of our impaired justice system

Erica Quigley

There are two powerful metaphors for justice in the biblical imagination. One is the image of water. Divine justice is often expressed as a flow, and to do what is right is to be aligned with that flow. When the covenant is upheld, the rains fall in their season and the land enjoys blessing (Deuteronomy 11). When the people do justice, then they are “watered” like a garden (Isaiah 58). In a verse from the book of Amos made famous by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the prophet challenges the people: “Let justice well up like water, and righteousness like a flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).

Water is both nourishing and powerful. It can create canyons and sweep away cities, or irrigate fields and gardens. As a metaphor for God’s power, the biblical authors used water imagery to convey the notion of justice as a natural part of the universe, similar to gravity. It is something which we humans can either block by our unjust actions, or channel in positive ways."

RJL. Justice is blind.





Looking over the fence. The tall person can see over. The short person gets what he needs to in order to see over the fence....Everyone gets what they need.





Taken from the Michigan Jewish Democrat Facebook post September 18, 2020



You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just.

Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that your God יהוה is giving you.

Deuteronomy 16:19,20

From Sefaria


For other posts from Words Have Wings on Parshat Shoftim:

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