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Activity 3: Passion for Justice (20 minutes), Workshop 6: Judaism 2—People of the Law

In "Building Bridges," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Leader Resource 3, The Judgment of Solomon
  • Props such as a small bundle to represent a baby and a yardstick or broomstick to represent a sword

Preparation for Activity

  • On a sheet of newsprint, write "Justice" in large letters, and post.
  • Print Leader Resource 3. Copy the script for five youth who will read the parts of Narrator, King Solomon, First Woman, Second Woman, and Guard. If possible, arrange in advance for volunteers to read these roles and give each volunteer the script.

Description of Activity

Ask participants to define "justice." Write youths' answers on the sheet of newsprint. If you do not hear "righteousness," "lawfulness," or "fairness," you might suggest them.

Remind youth of the previous workshop on Judiasm and the concept of tikkun olam, "heal the world." Say, in your own words:

Justice-making can be a way to heal the world. While the Torah is considered "the Law" in Judaism, Jews believe that to seek true justice we must be ready to interpret the law. Since ancient times, Jewish text, commentary, and traditions have dealt with questions of justice. A famous story "The Judgment of Solomon," told in the Book of First Kings, is one example.

Invite five volunteers to perform a skit. Give each a copy of Leader Resource 3 and distribute the props. Allow the actors time to review their scripts before they perform.

After the skit, inform the group that Solomon is not always considered a prophet in Judaism, but his counterpart in Islam (Suleimain) is considered one. Yet, to Jews, he is still an important figure and a wise king.

Invite youth to share their initial responses to the story. Prompt discussion with these questions:

  • In what ways did King Solomon show wisdom in distinguishing between law and justice? If neither woman had objected, do you think King Solomon would have had the baby cut in two? Why or why not?
  • Some people believe that laws should always be followed exactly as they are written. Others believe that law needs to be interpretated: what might be just in one situation might not be in another. What do you believe?

Say:

Solomon's decision reflects the Jewish desire for a justice not based merely on written laws, but ultimately on compassion. Like other religions, Judaism is a living faith that helps adherents live in the grey space that can arise between "law" and "justice." As Solomon was clever in seeking to apply a law fairly, living Judaism looks to the Torah for law, yet the lens that God wants us to live together in a climate of compassionate justice. Interpreting and analyzing the teachings and stories of the Torah is central in all movements in Judaism, from ultra-Orthodox to contemporary humanist. While the "baseline" Jewish belief is that Torah contains all God's laws for people, it is also true that Judaism has long been lively with debate about how to interpret "the Law" so we may live, in our modern circumstances, the obedience to God and the compassionate justice toward one another that God asked of the ancient Hebrews 5,000 years ago.

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Last updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2011.

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