"The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it." -- Albert Einstein
In order to address the metaphysical meaning of justice, we must first go back to two statements in Genesis 1. These are "And God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." and you shall "have dominion over" (or "rule over") all that is upon the earth.
Adam and Eve are the allegorical representation of all of humanity. Therefore, we are all made in "God's image". If we are truly "made in God's image", then we must respect ourselves. Otherwise, we would be demeaning God. In addition, since everyone is made in the image of God we must learn to respect others for who they are. This requires that every person in a community will respect their neighbor as they respect themselves.
The second statement raises a question. What is dominion in the context of the Torah? You cannot understand any document or statement unless you know its context. From the context of the entire Torah, the specific meaning of dominion is responsibility. These two statements come together when we recognize that no one can accept responsibility without self-respect.
In order to have a just society, every person in the community must be responsible for his/her actions. Justice is the result of the value system that determines the nature of that responsibility. Justice is not a system of laws. It establishes the manner in which the law is applied. Laws are dependent upon the society's value system. History has taught us that the most law-abiding nation can produce evil when the law is perverted. A nation of laws does not necessarily produce a just society. A just society produces a just legal system.
Then we must ask can humans, left to their own devices, establish a just society? Genesis 1 asserts that God is the creator and, therefore, the governor of the universe. George Washington maintained, "It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible." From the perspective of the Anthropic Principal, we are observers and the observed. As the observed, we are subject to the governance of the universe. Whether, our perspective is metaphysical or scientific, we are governed by something that exists beyond us. It is this "something" that defines justice.
For our purpose, let us take the Sinai Covenant as an example that creates a just society. In the Ten Commandments, the source is immediately identified, "I am the Lord your God". In Exodus 24:7, we are told "And he took the Book of the Covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, "All that the Lord has said will we do, and obey." This is clearly a voluntary contractual agreement made between God and every individual. The commandments define the responsibilities of each individual, e.g. no idols, keep the Sabbath, don't murder, don't steal, etc. It is the responsibility of every individual to fulfill his/her part of the contract.
The purpose of the commandments is to create a just society. The source that defines a just society is God. The society must reflect God's governance. This is the meaning of "You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy." (Lev. 19:2). This also clarifies the meaning of "God's image". We are intended to reflect God's governance in our society.
In the next post, we will examine the application of the contract and the judgment of those who choose to violate it.
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