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Doing Justice

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One of the most oft-quoted verses in the Bible proclaims, “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof - Justice, justice shall you pursue.” (Deuteronomy 16:20) The rabbis taught that this is an example of imitatio Dei, of imitating God’s behavior, because God is just. The rabbis portray God as balancing din, strict, retributive justice, with raḥamim, mercy. The Bible repeatedly calls upon us to care for widows, orphans, the downtrodden and the foreigner as required by justice, which is repeatedly tied to insights based on empathy— “You were slaves in Egypt.”1

  • 1. Adapted from A Guide to Jewish Practice, Volume 1—Everyday Living. The Guide may be ordered from the Reconstructionist Press.

G'milut Hesed

G'milut Hesed, acts of kindess, involves loyalty, dependability and caring for others in need. It arises not merely from friendship or personal feeling, but from a sense of obligation. Jewish communities have long made it the business of every member to visit the sick, care for elders, comfort mourners, welcome guests, and celebrate the formation of new families and the welcoming of children.

Two people side-by-side, viewed from behind, with one embracing the other in support
Two people side-by-side, viewed from behind, with one embracing the other in support
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Tikkun Olam

Tikkun olam (social activism, or literally "world repair") is an attempt to repair a breach in the just functioning of the world. The Reconstructionist movement has helped define the vanguard of social justice in the Jewish community, advancing causes from equality for women and the LGBT community, to interfaith dialogue.


The word "tzedaka," often translated as “charity,” comes from the Hebrew root tzedek, meaning “justice.” Tzedaka is an expression of justice rather than mercy; its purpose is to create a fairer distribution of resources. Doing tzedaka restores justice.

Closeup image of tzedakah box
Closeup image of tzedakah box

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