Which Comes First in Judaism: Justice or Kindness?

Can the idea of judgment exist without the idea of mercy? Explore the duality of justice and loving-kindness in our daily lives and practice, and the ways each shapes us into better versions of ourselves. 

This video is one in a 4-part series called Rooted: Jewish Values Run Deep, which explores the productive tensions between Jewish values, and engages viewers in thinking more deeply about these values, what we learn from them and how these tensions enrich Judaism. These questions serve as a starting point for both personal reflection and community conversation — so each video is accompanied by a guide that can help facilitate and deepen these dialogues. 

Community Building Questions

  • Are you naturally inclined to be a chesed Jew — one who leads with kindness — or a tzedek Jew — one who leads through justice?
  • Kindness can be easily undervalued and unseen. How do we teach this value? How do we give it its “due?”
  • Are Jews rule-breakers, rule followers, or rule-makers? Or ar the rules besides the point?

Breaking Barriers Questions

  • What obligation do we have as Jews to fight injustice — even when it’s most uncomfortable?
  • Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann suggests that there are more and less challenging ways to serve. How do we balance service as acts of loving-kindness, and service that strikes at the root of society’s problems? (Her example: between serving at a soup kitchen, and attacking the roots of a system where people go hungry)
  • In Hebrew, the words “justice” and ”charity” are both from the same root: tzedek. What is the relationship between them? Can justice be achieved through money?

We would love to hear your reactions to these questions and activities. Please use the comment feature on the bottom of this page to join the conversation.

For more videos in this series, click here. 

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Gittin 55

Returning a stolen beam.