Recent news reports are replete with stories of people who fail to intercede against bad behavior. For example, one college sports team coach now Congressman turned a blind eye to locker room abuse. Even worse are those enabling illegal and immoral activity. Lawyers covering up infidelity for a client with their own misdeeds and false accusations. Accountants failing to report income on an employer’s tax returns. Jewish law offers clear guidance on how we are supposed to act when confronting abuse, lying and fraud.
In Torah parshat Shoftim we are told “Justice, justice shall you pursue . . .” The repetition of the word “justice” indicates that we pursue justice both in our actions and in our intentions. In Judaism, there is no alternative that permits us to keep secret what we know of our neighbor’s serious transgressions. In Leviticus, Torah directs that we rebuke our neighbor when they are wrong and never to stand idly by the blood of your kinsman. God requires that we be promoters of truth, protectors of the innocent, and advocates for justice.
There is a spiritual connection in our standing up and speaking out against falsehoods and fraud. The failure to confront unethical behavior diminishes our own morality and integrity. Our failure to call out unethical or illegal behavior makes us complicit, diminishing Godliness in this world.
The health and resilience of a community or a nation depends upon the willingness of each to promote justice. From Torah we get the inspiration and find the courage needed to be proponents of a fair and just society.
(Michael Cohen, keep reading the Torah. Because you'll also learn about repentance as well.)
Rabbi Evan J. Krame