Why Justice Emanates from God Alone
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
Unlike all other books and religions, those learned in Torah (Bible) have discovered that these divine texts (The Five Books, Prophets and Writings) are written in a specific and perfect style. Nothing is extraneous; all is measured and communicated directly by God. Each word is carefully chosen and revealing. The sequence of verses and Torah sections are intentional lessons, which we must uncover through analysis. A portion of last weeks Haftorah “Nachamu” follows:
“Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the Earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?
Who hath meted out the spirit of the Lord? Or who was His counsellor that he might instruct Him? With whom took He counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice, and taught Him knowledge, and made Him to know the way of discernment (Isaiah 40:12-14)?”
We notice 2 distinct categories are discussed: 1) creation, 2) God’s knowledge and justice. The fact that 2 follows 1, suggests that as God alone is the 1) Creator, this grants Him 2) the exclusive right to define justice. Meaning, as no one else determined the creation of the universe (seas, sands or mountains) no one else can define knowledge, or what us just. But how does this follow logically? The first step is understood: God created everything, so He possesses ultimate and perfect knowledge of everything. A creator knows his creation. This is clear. What is not so apparent, is how His role as Creator also reserves for Him alone the role of Judge.
We must first define justice. This refers to providing for an animate existence in accord with its needs and it’s deeds. I say animate, since there is no injustice in creating a tree, and then not supplying it with water. In this case, there is no sentient being undergoing pain. This is similar to creating a brick, and then pulverizing it into dust. No injustice is found in such a case.
But regarding animate life, we recognize a claim: God afflicting pain on animals is unjust. Thus, He designed the appropriate instincts in each species in order that it is attracted only to its fit diet; He places that species in a suitable climate (mammals on land, fish in seas), and He designed each species so its method of locomotion works; mammals have legs and fish have fins. Thus, God’s justice here is that animate life is provided with its necessary food and environment.
God’s role as Creator means he knows each creation perfectly; He knows what it needs. The continued existence of the species reveals God’s justice, as He has provided all that’s necessary to sustain the species.
What about mankind? Other than nourishment and a suitable environment, God holds man responsible for breaking His will. Is man correct in complaining, “I didn’t ask to be created, and therefore God, You are unjust in imposing Your Torah laws and punishments on me”?
The problem with this statement is very subtle, but also quite fundamental…
When man complains about “his” condition, he is saying 2 things: 1) he rejects his current state, but 2) he desires life. When one says “I” don’t like such and such, he is saying he wants to retain the “I” – he wants his life, his existence, the “I”, but not in his present condition. However, by wanting the “I”, he is saying he agrees with God’s act of creating him. But, as Creator, God monopolizes all rights to determine under what conditions His creations will endure. God gave man life and conditions for continued existence, and these conditions are His Biblical laws.
This is Isaiah’s message. As man cannot tell God how to create the seas, sands and mountains, he also cannot tell God what is just.
Furthermore, man cannot have it both ways; complaining about one aspect of God’s creations (obligatory Biblical law) while accepting the other (his life). In other words, man contradicts himself by both desiring and rejecting God’s creations; he desires life but rejects the Bible.
It is the most humbling realization, but true. Modern civilization and Westernized cultures promote a focus on self-glorification, fame, hedonism and wealth. But in reality, this is not why God created man. Isaiah is teaching us that our purpose is to strive towards a life subjugated to our Creator’s will. And this in no way is unpleasant, but in fact serves to actualize the most pleasurable life. If we can for a moment break loose of the lie of fame and fortune, and examine the lives of men and women who pursued God’s wisdom, if we study King Solomon’s masterpiece Ecclesiastes (Koheles) where he experimented on himself to seek happiness…we will learn that God’s will is the most enriching life. We will find it pleasant to subjugate ourselves to God who knows what is best for us. Subjugation is only distasteful on the surface, as we have been groomed by society to focus on the self, subjugating others. But do not blindly accept your nurtured beliefs.
Let it sink in…we are God’s creations. We are but clay in the potter’s hands. We have a temporary physical existence, but an eternal existence if we follow God’s will. If we rise above our instinctual drive for unrestricted freedom, and grasp the idea that our Creator has gifted us with a guide for the best life — His Bible — and if we take the second step to indulge its study, we will find a better life than imagined, or what’s chased by Western cultures.
God Alone Determines Justice
A wise Rabbi taught that no new ideas are found in Prophets and Writings: the Five Books contain all Torah principles while Prophets and Writings are reiterations or elaborations of the Five Books. Where then in Torah do we find Isaiah’s prophetical concept that as Creator, God determines what is just? Deuteronomy 30:19 is where Moses speaks to the nation saying, “I call heaven and Earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse…” Here, Moses joins heavens and Earth to life and death, i.e., “justice.” Heaven and Earth are inanimate; they cannot testify. But in a manner of speaking, their prominence as the 2 realms containing all creation strikes man with an awe of their Creator. Moses then ties creation together with the justice the Jews will receive based on their actions. Isaiah, then, is an elaboration of Moses’ raw and slightly hidden message.
Application to Today
Appreciating God as the sole arbiter of justice and morality, we will find it easier to accept His prohibitions of homosexuality, saving enemies’ lives, abortion, and the gamut of debated issues. If however we study God’s laws, we can arrive at their perfect reasoning.
God is the Creator. He determines the rules.