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Isaiah and the Days of Awe, Day Six: Seek Judgment

Your Humble Blogger is late to the Seventh Day of Awe, but better late than proverbial:

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:16-17)

Most of the recent translations have Isaiah telling the People Israel to seek justice rather than judgment. I am not in a position to say that the modern translators are incorrect—modern translations tend to be much more accurate than the King James, if without that majestic rhythm. It’s a big difference, though. Having studied to do well, do we now seek judgment, that is, do we seek to have the ability to judge, or do we seek justice, that is, the just ordering of affairs. My Hebrew isn’t going to help us, here.

Surely my path through the verse leads us to judgment. As we prepare ourselves for right action, we clean and tidy our world, cease the wrong-doing and study the right. Now, perhaps, we are ready to have good judgment. When faced with a new situation (as we are faced with new situations every day, every waking hour), to judge those new situations rightly so that we know how to act rightly. All of the preparation leads up to this: judgment. And how do we know a woman with good judgment? If she has put away the-evil-of-her-doings, ceased doing the evil, and studied the good. If a woman has not done those things, we must doubt her judgment. If I have not done those things, I must doubt my own judgment. If I have, if I have studied the good and cleaned myself of the evil, then I can go on to the work of the last triple.

On the other hand, if the pivot of the verses was yesterday’s verse (and the traditional break in verses does seem to imply this) then the judgment I am talking about is included in the study of the right. Then we are to ask ourselves: how can a man seek justice? First, he should put away the-evil-of-his-doings (etc), and then study the good; without doing those things, then his pursuit of justice will be doomed. It would be like YHB hunting game: I would scare it away even as I pursue it (likening, here, the-evil-of-my-doings to the thrashing through the jungle of a nearsighted city boy) and then even should I stumble across it, I would not recognize it. But the preparation of the previous verse has now brought us to the point where we now can seek justice, and of course now we must.

I am stuck between them. I am wondering if my emphasis on the preparation for Doing Right has reached the point of procrastination, an endless putting-off of the hard work of t’shuvah because there is more contemplation, more meditation, more study to be done.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.