Article - ( Festivals 5737 (1976
JUSTICE, TRUTH, PEACE - FOUNDATIONS OF THE WORLD
According to the Jewish sages of ancient times, the World stands on three foundations - Justice, Truth, and Peace. They add that the three are interrelated - if there is Justice, there is Truth, and where there is Truth, Peace is to be found. Truth and Justice are essential prerequisites to Peace and constitute its surest safeguard.
Justice is an attribute of God, tempered with the attribute of Mercy. Judaism teaches that Justice encompasses all ethical virtues. It demands not only unprejudiced judgment and absolute equality in the court of law ("every judge who judges truly is a partner of God") but also an equitable social pattern of behavior. The just way is always the right way and calls for full justice for the underprivileged, for one's enemies, even for animals. It implies honesty in thought and action, forthright speech, upright conduct, and a constant and unrelenting insistence on social morality and human rights.
The subversion of Justice in any form shakes the World. The sword offers one of the greatest threats to Justice: nothing delays and perverts Justice so terribly as does War. Peace therefore is a concomitant virtue. The stability and happiness of every community rests upon the basis of Peace, which is seen as the greatest of all blessings - and indeed in its absence, no other blessing is meaningful. All major Jewish prayers conclude with a prayer for Peace.
Peace, in Jewish tradition, is much more than a mere absence of conflict. It requires the positive obligation to strive for unity and harmony. In a world context, it is bound up with the hope of universal disarmament and of an international society built on genuine brotherhood, united in devotion to Justice and Freedom. This goal received early expression in the famous vision of the prophet Isaiah: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more," and Judaism was the first religion to project the concept of Universal Peace as an ideal. Characteristically the 18th-century Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav said, "Wherever a Treaty of Peace is signed, God is present".
The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom and this is the standard greeting in Israel. Peace must be sought not only between nations but also between individuals - and it is at this latter level that the ordinary man must begin to work for peace. The rabbis of old put it this way, "A human being must seek to promote peace between man and his neighbor, husband and wife, family and family, city and city, nation and nation."
The third foundation of the Jewish ethical system is Truth. Without Truth there can obviously be neither Justice nor Peace. This too emanates from a Divine prototype and "the Seal of God is Truth." Truth is a positive ideal and involves speaking out whenever necessary. It demands that truth be spoken at all times "even in one's heart," honesty in business dealings, and a complete rejection of any form of deceit or hypocrisy. "God despises a man who says one thing with his mouth and another with his mind" says the Talmud and notes that lying to one's fellow man is equivalent to lying to God. Truth knows no boundaries or distinctions and must be accepted, whatever its source. The Talmud sums up: "Judaism is the practice of Truth," expressed through honesty, sincerity, loyalty, and integrity.
The insistence on these three principles provides an insight into Jewish ethics, which is rooted in the teaching of the Bible, developed by rabbinic thinkers throughout the ages, and which has profoundly affected the moral thinking of humanity. Judaism is a religion of optimism. It believes that mankind, for all its mistakes, will reach a golden era. The world, after a long period of struggle, will eventually find itself on the road to perfection. Justice will ultimately prevail, Truth will triumph and the prophetic vision of Universal Peace will be established. This confident hope has sustained Jews throughout their often bitter history, and remains at the core of their faith today.
The motifs of Truth, Judgment, and Peace are represented on the stamps against the frame of the Star of David: Truth by the Tables of the Law; Justice by a scale; and Peace by a dove and olive branch. Inscribed on the tab in Hebrew and English is the verse from Ethics of the Fathers, "By three things is the world preserved by Truth, by Judgment, and by Peace."