Justice: Equal Weights and Measures (Parsha Ke Tetze)

This coming week’s (8/21/2021) Parsha is Ke Tetze (Deut. 21:10-25:19). In this week’s Torah portion we read about the law of equal weights and measures:

[13] Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small.
[14] Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small.
[15] But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
[16] For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the LORD thy God.
(Deut. 25:13-16 KJV)

Philo of Alexandria writes of this law:

(161) And if there is any one in the world who is a praiser of equality, that man is Moses. In the first place composing hymns in its honour, and in every place, and calling it the especial property of justice, as in fact its very name to some degree shows, to Divide (the Greek is dicha temnein, as if dikaiosyne, “justice,” were derive from dicha, “in two parts.”) bodies and things into two equal parts; and in the second place blaming injustice, the worker of the most disgraceful inequality; (162) and inequality has been the parent of two wars, foreign and civil war, as on the other hand equality is the parent of peace. And he also utters the most manifest panegyric on justice, and the most undeniable reproach of injustice when he says, “You shall not commit injustice in any judgment, nor in measures, or weights, or balances: a just balance, and just weights, and a just heap, shall be Yours.”(Lev. 19:35.) And in Deuteronomy he says, “There shall not be a false weight in thy bag; thy weight shalt be true and just; there shall not be a little weight and a large one; that thy days may be multiplied upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, because every one who committeth injustice is an abomination to the Lord.” (Deut. 25:13.)
(Who is the Heir of Divine Things? 161-162)

Justice is the natural result of the objective rather than subjective thinking that is characteristic of logic. This unbiased judgement guides us to love others as we do ourselves (Lev. 18:19), to do onto others as we would have them do onto us, and to do not to others what is hateful to ourselves.

The Torah definition of Justice, also found in this weeks Torah reading, might well be:

You shall love your neighbor
as yourself.
(Lev. 19:18)

This statement equates our love for others with our love for ourselves.  It is the basis with the saying by the Ba’al Shem Tov (founder of Hasidic Judaism):

It lies upon you to love your comrade as one like yourself.
And who knows as you do your many defects?
As you are nonetheless able to love yourself,
so love your fellow no matter how many defects you may see in him.
– Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer (The Besht)

One of the most significant parallels between Yeshua and Hillel is Their profound teaching of Love.

Yeshua taught:

You have heard that it was said
“You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you,
do good to those who hate you,
and pray for those who spitefully use you persecute you
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;
for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good,
and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?
Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brethren only,
what do you do more than others?
Do not even the tax collectors do so?
(Mt. 5:43-47)

Yeshua here begins by quoting the Tanak “Love your neighbor” (Lev. 19:18) but then gives the Qumran corollary “hate your enemy.” To Yeshua (and presumably Hillel) the issue is the interpretation of “neighbor.” In his Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:29-36) Yeshua argues that we cannot be sure who our “neighbor” is, so in order to make sure we do not violate Lev. 19:18 we should love everyone.  We are prohibited from hating others, as we read in the Tanak:

28 This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judges, for I should have lied to El that is above.
29 If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me, or exulted when evil found him—
(Job 31:28-29 HRV)

This is very much in keeping with Socrates’ thoughts on justice which we discussed earlier.

Yeshua of Nazareth said:

Judge not, and you will not be judged,
condemn not, and you will not be condemned.
For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged;
and with what measure you mete, it will be measured to you again.
(Matt. 7:1-2 HRV)

This poetic statement is complete only in Hebrew Matthew. In the Aramaic and in the Greek only parts of this poetic statement are preserved by Matthew (Mt. 7:1-2) while other parts are preserved in Luke (Luke 6:37-38):

[A] Judge not, and you will not be judged,
[B] condemn not, and you will not be condemned.

[A] For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged;
[B] and with what measure you mete, it will be measured to you again.

Aramaic and Greek Matthew omit “condemn not, and you will not be condemned” Aramaic and Greek Luke omit “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged”

The initial statement in Mt. 7:1 Judge not, and you will not be judged, condemn not, and you will not be condemned has been totally misunderstood by those who have neglected the context of the statement.

The statements here serve as a basis for the Golden Rule in Mt. 7:12 giving it a basis in the Torah commands surrounding equal weights and measures. One of the Oral Laws recorded in the Mishna relating to weights and measures says:

By the same measure by which a man metes out [to others]
they mete out to him…
(m.Sotah 1:7)

This Oral Law is the obvious source for Yeshua’s statement.

This Oral Law may be stated because of its traditional application to the concepts taught in the previous verses (6:18-34). As we read in the Midrash Rabbah:

Elohim only rewards measure for measure.
(Exodus Rabbah 1 (5b))

And in the Targum Yerushalami:

Measure corresponds to measure.
With the measure with which someone measures (on earth)
It will be measured to him in heaven,
May it be a good or a bad measure.
(Targum Yerushalami to Gen. 38:26)

In the Midrash Siphre:

With the measure with which you measured,
I measure unto you.
(Siphre Deut. 308 (133b))

And in the Midrash Rabbah we read:

As the weaver weaves on his spindle, so he receives it;
with his (own) spindle he takes it.
As the pan boils over, so it pours it (the contents)
out down its sides. Everything that one spits upwards into the
air, falls back on his own face.
(Eccl. Rabbah 7, 9 (105a))

Yeshua uses this concept to draw the following

For with what judgment you judge,
you will be judged

Similar statements appears in the Mishna:

…do not judge your fellow until you are in his place…
(m.Avot 2:4)

…give everyone the benefit of the doubt…
(m.Avot 1:6)

When Yeshua says “Judge not, and you will not be judged, condemn not, and you will not be condemned” in context he is saying that we will be judged by the same standards we judge others. Up until this point Yeshua has only applied this to our relationship with Elohim, but in the following verses Yeshua will apply it to our relationship with others as well.

Yeshua continues:

3 And how [do] you see the splinter in your brother’s eye, but see not the beam that is in your own eye?
4 And how [do] you say to your brother, Suffer it now brother, so that I may pull out the splinter out of your eye: and behold, a beam is in your own eye?
5 You hypocrite! Pull out at the first, the beam from your own eye: and then you will be able to see, to pull out the splinter out of your brother’s eye.
(Matt. 7:3-5 HRV)

The phrase “a beam is in your own eye” is given as an illustration of the concept laid out in the first two verses, but now the application is to our relationships with others.

Similarly we read in the Talmud:

R.Johanan further said: What is the import of the words,
And it came to pass in the days of the judging of the judges?
It was a generation which judged its judges.
If the judge said to a man, ‘Take the splinter from between
your teeth,’ he would retort, ‘Take the beam from between your eyes.’
(b. Baba Barta 15b)

R. Tarfon said, I wonder whether there is any one
in this generation who accepts reproof, for if one says to him:
Remove the mote from between your eyes,
he would answer: Remove the beam from between your eyes!
(Arakin 16b)

Trim yourself and then trim others.
(b.San. 18a; 19a & b.Bab.M. 107b)

Let us pick off the straws from ourselves,
before we do it to others.
(j.Ta’an. 65a)

After a bit Yeshua gives the statement known as the Golden Rule:

Therefore whatever you would that men should do to you,
do you even so to them: for this is the Torah and the Prophets.
(Matt. 7:12 HRV)

This reads very closely with Hillel’s famous statement as found in the Talmud:

What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor
that is the whole Torah…
(b.Shabbat 31a)

Of course Yeshua’s “Golden Rule” has long been recognized as a positive restatement of Hillel’s statement, but many are unaware that even earlier this wise saying had been passed from Toviel to his son Toviyah in the Apocryphal Book of Toviyah (Tobit):

…that which you hate to be done to you,
do not you to others.
(Tobit 4:15 HRV).

Likewise we also read in the Mishnah:

Let the respect owing to your fellow,
be as precious to you as the respect owing to yourself.
(m.Avot 2:10)


Let your fellow’s money
be as precious to you as your own.
(m.Avot 2:12)

So a good definition for justice might be “whatever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them but that which you hate to be done to you, do not you to others” With this rule we place ourselves on one side of the scales of justice and others on the other side.

Thus the virtue of justice naturally emerge from the objective thinking indicative of logic, such that the “passions are the causes of all good and of all evil” just as Philo states, “of good when they submit to the authority of dominant reason, and of evil when they break out of bounds and scorn all government and restraint.” (Life of Moses 1; VI, 26)

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