Last week Jordan Rothman promised us a “return to controversy”. Well, he kept good on that promise:

Social justice is stupid. There, I said it, and it feels good. Surrounded by the legions of deluded Brandeisians, using this term almost as much as they speak Hebrew or complain about Sherman, I am now finally happy to write about the imbecilic nature of this concept. This ideal is talked about frequently at our university, and is even one of the four pillars of our institution. Many try (most in vain) to classify all manners of activity as promoting “social justice,” while others self-righteously point out that they are defenders of this “noble” ideal. What is actually quite comical is that none of these “guardians” are fully aware of what the term actually means. The concept is ambiguous at best, and many are content to blindly pursue the tenets of this nearly nonexistent ideal.

I am, of course, completely opposed to almost all that Jordan said in that article, and I think his concept of Social Justice as “slavery” is dangerously whack. That said, I do applaud his bold move to stand for his beliefs, because I know and he knows he’s going to take some flak for this. “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I applaud your right to say it” and all that.

I actually agree with Jordan that Social Justice is a pretty ambiguous term. Then again, so is “conservatism” or “love”. Personally, I find it enlightening that the Hebrew word for Charity, tzedakah, has the same root letters as the word for Justice, tzedek. Then again, Charity is a mistranslation:

the nature of tzedakah is very different from the idea of charity. The word “charity” suggests benevolence and generosity, a magnanimous act by the wealthy and powerful for the benefit of the poor and needy.
In Judaism, giving to the poor is not viewed as a generous, magnanimous act; it is simply an act of justice and righteousness, the performance of a duty, giving the poor their due.

To me, Social Justice is realizing that “the system” doesn’t always treat everyone in society fairly. We as individuals and as a society have an obligation to give a hand up to those hurt by the economic structure we have set up. Social Justice is about realizing that we are all brothers and sisters, descendants of Noah.

I am my brother’s keeper. That is what Social Justice is all about.


One thought on “Tzedek”

  1. Furthermore, I approve of Maimonides interpretation of tzedakah: The highest form of tzedakah is achieved by giving a pauper independence so that he will not have to depend on charity, and the next highest form is giving anonymously to an anonymous recipient: the purpose is clearly not to make the feel better about oneself but to benefit others.

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