Shiur #46: Spirituality (1): Tzedaka U-mishpat as Spirituality

  • Rav Dr. Judah Goldberg
This shiur begins our unit on the fourth value of berit Avot, the mandate to pursue a close and personal relationship with God. On the one hand, this would seem to be the aspect of berit Avot that is most thoroughly developed by the elaborate ritual laws of Sinai, which form the crux of our God-worship (avodat Hashem). On the other hand, as with the other values of berit Avot, we must wonder if its call for spirituality has indeed been completely subsumed by berit Sinai; or if this call still has broader implications, beyond the meticulous observance of Sinaitic law.
We start this unit on spirituality from an unlikely place. The first three shiurim deliberately overlap with the prior unit of tzedaka u-mishpat and constitute an epilogue to it, as they address the convergence of values #3 and #4 of berit Avot. They contend that pursuit of tzedaka u-mishpat is itself emulation of God and thus the highest form of ritual worship. Tzedaka u-mishpat belong, first and foremost, not to Avraham or King David, but to God Himself. Through tzedaka u-mishpat, then, we cleave to Him and partner with Him in ways that observance of berit Sinai alone cannot completely duplicate.
Divine Tzedaka U-mishpat in Tanakh
As Prof. Moshe Weinfeld thoroughly documents in Mishpat U-tzdaka Be-Yisrael U-ve’amim, tzedaka u-mishpat characterize not only Avraham and the Davidic dynasty in Tanakh, but also God. Multiple verses speak about God’s fondness for and performance of tzedaka u-mishpat and widely impact our liturgy, either through direct incorporation into the prayer book or by their influence on rabbinic formulations.
Let us examine the two books in which Biblical references to Divine tzedaka u-mishpat are concentrated.
Sefer Tehillim declares that God “loves tzedaka u-mishpat; God’s chessed fills the earth” (33:5). This verse is echoed later, together with an explicit reference to Divine performance of mishpat and tzedaka:
Mighty King Who loves mishpat, You established equity, You performed mishpat u-tzdaka in Ya’akov. (99:4)
The first half of this latter verse again mentions God’s love of mishpat, specifically in the context of his Kingship. Combining this phrase with the previous verse (33:5) yields the closing to the eleventh blessing of the Amida prayer: “King Who loves tzedaka u-mishpat.”[1]
Commentaries explain the second half of 99:4, which describes God, like Avraham and David, as performing mishpat u-tzdaka for the Jewish people, in different ways. It may refer to God’s interventions in Jewish history, including justice and salvation (see Malbim). Alternatively, performance of mishpat u-tzdaka may refer to the giving of the Torah, through which God “established equity.”[2] In that case, the parallel to terrestrial leaders is even closer: As King, God performs mishpat u-tzdaka for the Jewish people through righteous legislation. Furthermore, the law becomes an expression and embodiment of the values of mishpat u-tzdaka. The laws of Sinai give content and substance to the ethical values of berit Avot.[3]
Other verses in Tehillim also assign mishpat and tzedaka to God:
Your tzedaka is like mighty mountains, Your mishpat is [like] the great deep. (36:7).
God performs tzedakot and mishpatim for all the aggrieved. (103:6)
Prof. Weinfeld notes that these verses, too, are echoed in our liturgy. The blessing following the morning recitation of the Shema states, “At the height of the universe is Your seat, and your mishpatim and tzedaka reach the ends of the earth” (121). This, too, is in the context of God’s kingship, which is mentioned nine times in the blessing.
Finally, Tehillim also contains two parallel pairings of mishpat with tzedek (righteousness) as the base of God’s throne. In each case, the midrash reinterprets tzedek as tzedaka, which yields the familiar pairing of tzedaka u-mishpat:
Great is tzedaka, for it reaches the Throne of Glory, as it says, “Tzedek and mishpat are the base of Your throne” (89:15). (Midrash Mishlei 14)[4]
So, too, is the Throne of Glory praised through tzedaka, as it says, “Cloud and fog surround Him, tzedek and mishpat are the base of His throne” (97:2). (Tanna De-vei Eliyahu Zuta, 1)[5]
Following these interpretations, tzedaka u-mishpat again appear in the context of God’s kingship. They are essential to His rule, just as they are for kings on earth.[6]
Yeshayahu, too, repeatedly speaks of God’s mishpat and tzedaka. The following verse is familiar from the Amida prayers for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur:
As the Malbim (5:7) notes, this verse is part of the continuation of the Parable of the Vineyard, in which Yeshayahu laments that “[God] hoped for mishpat” from the Jewish people, “but behold, mispach (a blemish); for tzedaka, but behold, tze’aka (cries)” (5:7). In other words, God soars where the Jewish people flounder; while “man bows and is humbled” (5:15) by his deviance, God is exalted and sanctified through mishpat and tzedaka.[7]
Admittedly, some commentaries interpret “tzedaka” here as “tzedek” (righteousness) and thus conflate it with “mishpat” in the first half of the verse. Radak, for instance, writes that “the meaning of ‘through tzedaka’ is with fairness (yosher), like mishpat.[8] Others, though, such as Rashi, deliberately keep the two halves of the verse separate. The following midrash similarly interprets this verse, linking it to yet another verse from Tehillim:
“To David, a song, [about] chessed and mishpat I will sing; to You, God, I will offer praise” (Tehillim 101:1). This is what Scripture says, “The Lord of Hosts is exalted through mishpat, and the Holy God is sanctified through tzedaka” – if through mishpat, [then] “The Lord of Hosts is exalted through mishpat,” and if through tzedaka, [then] “and the Holy God is sanctified through tzedaka.”
R. Huna said in the name of R. Acha: This is what David said before the Holy One, Blessed be He: “If you perform chessed with me — ‘I will sing’; and if you perform mishpat with me — ‘I will sing;’ either way, ‘“To You, God, I will offer praise.’”[9]
According to the midrash, these verses portray tzedaka/ chessed and mishpat as two different Divine modes, which together comprise the composite Divine ideal of tzedaka u-mishpat.[10]
Divine tzedaka u-mishpat also appear elsewhere in Sefer Yeshayahu. Yeshayahu foretells a day when God, metaphorically, “will make mishpat the ruler and tzedaka the level” (28:17). Several chapters later, Yeshayahu anticipates the praise that the people will offer upon salvation:
God is exalted, for He dwells on high, he filled Zion with mishpat u-tzdaka. (33:5)[11]
Conversely, God withdraws His mishpat and tzedaka in response to sin (59:9, 14) — retribution, the Radak notes (9), for the people’s rejection of mishpat and tzedaka.
In each of these verses, the exact meanings of tzedaka and mishpat, especially when performed by God, may vary. However, the repeated use of these familiar terms in so many different contexts collectively reinforces one general conclusion: God claims the values of tzedaka u-mishpat as His own.[12]
Tzedaka U-mishpat as Imitatio Dei
If tzedaka u-mishpat, in fact, do not originate with Avraham but are essential Divine traits, then their performance by humans takes on a whole new meaning. Tzedaka u-mishpat are not just desired by God but are ways of imitating Him! As such, they carry immense spiritual force, as imitation of God is a prime method of drawing close and cleaving to Him (see Vayikra Rabba 25:3).
Furthermore, through performance of tzedaka u-mishpat, one joins God in His grand project for creation:
R. Elazar said: One who performs tzedaka u-mishpat,[13] it is as if he has filled the whole entire world with chessed, as it says, “He loves tzedaka u-mishpat; God’s chessed fills the earth” (Tehillim 33:5). (Sukka 49b)
There is a missing link in this interpretation: The verse is speaking about God, not humans! Apparently, one who performs tzedaka u-mishpat steps into the Divine role. As such, he or she is responsible for filling the world with chessed, like God Himself.
According to Radak, human imitation is anticipated by the wording of the original verse and is echoed elsewhere in Tanakh:
Just as [God] does, He loves that His creations should do. And so did the prophet say: “For I am God, who performs chessed, mishpat and tzedaka in the land, for these I desire” (Yirmeyahu 9:23) — meaning, just as I perform them, I love that you should perform them.
God performs mishpat u-tzdaka and wants others to do so as well. In pursuit of mishpat u-tzdaka, then, God and humans unite in partnership and together fill the world with chessed.[14]
Tzedaka U-mishpat as Ritual Worship
Through this analysis, I think, we can better understand a verse from Mishlei and its repeated usage by Chazal:
Performance of tzedaka u-mishpat is more precious to God than sacrifice. (21:3)
On its own, the verse only offers a ranking, echoed so many times in various forms by the later Prophets: ethical behavior outweighs the rites of the Temple. Our broader reading in Tanakh, however, supplies the rationale: Ethical behavior does not stand in contrast to spirituality or merely complement it, but embodies it and constitutes its highest expression! Through tzedaka u-mishpat, values #3 and #4 of berit Avot merge into one.
Moreover, performance of tzedaka u-mishpat is a more powerful gesture than even the most sacred forms of worship. Through tzedaka u-mishpat, we might suggest, a yearning soul is able to bypass the medium of ritual worship and cleave directly to God.
Sukka 49b highlights this message:
R. Elazar said: Greater is one who performs tzedaka than all the different sacrifices, as it says, “Performance of tzedaka u-mishpat is more precious to God than sacrifice.”
Some commentators are perplexed by the reference only to performance of tzedaka,[15] but the almost verbatim statement in Yalkut Shimoni (Mishlei, 959) includes both tzedaka and mishpat. Similarly, Midrash Mishlei states:
R. Elazar, son of R. Shimon, said: Anyone who performs tzedaka u-mishpat, Scriptures treats him as if he offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, as it says, “more precious to God than sacrifice.”
R. Yirmeya said: Any day in which there is tzedaka u-mishpat in the world is more beloved before the Holy One, blessed be He, than burnt offerings and peace offerings, as it says, “more precious to God than sacrifice.”
In Devarim Rabba, the Sages elaborate further about God’s preference for tzedaka u-mishpat over ritual worship:
This is what it means, “Performance of tzedaka u-mishpat is more precious to God than sacrifice.” It does not say: as precious as sacrifice, but “more than sacrifice.” How so? The sacrifices are only offered in the time of the Temple, but tzedaka and justice (dinim) are practiced with or without the Temple.
Another interpretation: The sacrifices only atone for negligence, but tzedaka and justice atone for negligence and for willful sin.
Another interpretation: the sacrifices are only practiced on earth, but tzedaka and justice are practiced both in Heaven and on earth.
Another interpretation: the sacrifices are only practiced in this world, but tzedaka and justice are practiced in this world and in the World to Come. (5:3)
The midrash continues with a practical application from history, regarding a figure who is already quite familiar to us as an exemplar of Avraham’s tradition — King David. In light of the prophecy that the Temple will not be built until after David’s death (I Divrei Ha-yamim 17:4), some of his naysayers tease him by disingenuously pining for its construction. The Talmud Yerushalmi tells the story this way:
There is no generation that does not have scoundrels. What did the boors of the generation do? They would stand outside of David’s windows and say to him, “David, when will the Temple be built? When will we ‘go to the House of God’?” He would say, “Even though they mean to anger me, [I swear] that I rejoice in my heart — ‘I would rejoice from those who would say to me, ‘Let us go to the House of God’’ (Tehillim 122:1).”
God, however, sees things differently:
“When your days have been filled” (II Shmuel 7:12) — R. Shmuel bar Nachmani said: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to David: “David, I am counting for you full years; I will not count for you incomplete years. Isn’t your son, Shlomo, building a Temple only to offer sacrifices in it? The mishpat u-tzdaka that you perform is more beloved to me than the sacrifices! What is the reason? ‘Performance of tzedaka u-mishpat is more precious to God than sacrifice.’” (Berakhot 2:1)
Meanwhile, the complementary, familiar prooftext is cited by Devarim Rabba: “David would perform mishpat u-tzdaka for his whole nation” (II Shmuel 8:15).
Unlike the jokesters of the generation, God is not impatient for the Temple sacrifices. He savors every moment of David’s legendary tzedaka u-mishpat, not only as a prerequisite for the Temple construction but as a supreme form of worship in their own right.
God’s preference for tzedaka u-mishpat over sacrifice reverberates throughout history, though the message often falls upon deaf ears. In the era of the Temple, prophets such as Hoshea, Amos, Yeshayahu, and Mikha implore the people to prioritize imitation of God over service of Him, though to little avail.[16] Following the destruction of the Second Temple, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai echoes their words:
Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai was once leaving Yerushalayim, and R. Yehoshua was following and saw the destroyed Temple. R. Yehoshua said: “Woe to us over the fact that it is destroyed —the place in which the sins of the Jewish people would be atoned!” [Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai] said to him: “My son, do not be upset. We have another[17] atonement that is like it — which is it? This is gemilut chassadim, as it says, ‘For I desire chessed and not sacrifice’ (Hoshea 6:6).” (Avot De-Rabbi Natan, A, 4(.[18]
The passage continues with the story of the Second Temple’s destruction, including Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai’s decision, when given an opportunity by the Roman Emperor Vespasian to advocate for his people, to put other needs before the Temple and its service.[19]
While Avot De-Rabbi Natan only quotes Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai’s plea to spare the town of Yavneh, Gittin 56b includes a request for a doctor for R. Tzadok, who was severely emaciated from fasting. Here, too, the message seems to be the prioritization of extending kindness to even a single, suffering individual over preservation of the Temple worship.[20]
In all of these sources, tzedaka/ chessed and mishpat are not accorded ethical value, but genuine spiritual value. Like the sacrifices, they atone, if not more so. Conversely, repudiation of tzedaka is not just a moral problem, but a spiritual one:
R. Yehoshua ben Korcha says: One who hides his eye from [those needy of] tzedaka, it is as if he practices idolatry. (Bava Batra 10a)
Pursuit of the values of tzedaka u-mishpat is one and the same as pursuit of God. Spurning these values, on the other hand, is turning one’s back on God as well.
Tzedaka and Prayer
We close this shiur with a practical application. If tzedaka u-mishpat are genuinely spiritual pursuits, then we can perhaps better understand a practice of R. Elazar, which is codified by the Rambam (Hilkhot Mattenot Aniyim 10:15) and the Shulchan Arukh (OC 92:10):
R. Elazar would give a coin to a pauper and then pray. He would say: As it says, “I, through tzedek, will see Your face” (Tehillim 17:15). (Bava Batra 10a)
Here, too, tzedek is interpreted as tzedaka. Through charity, the verse then says, one approaches God.
If tzedaka were to carry only ethical meaning, its relevance to prayer would be puzzling. However, as a way of imitating God, tzedaka also constitutes a way of approaching Him. Tzedaka, along with mishpat, draws one close to the Creator, thus facilitating a direct conversation through prayer.[21]
The following shiur will continue with the theme of tzedaka u-mishpat as imitation of God, specifically exploring its roots in the narrative of Parashat Vayera.
For Further Thought:
  1. As we conclude the last of several shiurim that analyze the pairing of mishpat and tzedaka in Tanakh, let us take a step back and consider some linguistic points:
  1. There are three ways to interpret the pairing of mishpat and tzedaka in Tanakh:
  1. Approach #1: Mishpat and tzedaka, while complementary, each refer to a separate, discrete phenomenon.
  1. Approach #2: Tzedaka u-mishpat (or mishpat u-tzdaka) together form a single fused concept, distinct from either mishpat or tzedaka alone.
  1. Approach #3: Tzedaka u-mishpat form a hendiadys, in which two conjoined nouns substitute for a noun and an adjective. In this case, tzedaka does not stand in contrast to mishpat but modifies it and should actually be understood as tzedek; the intention is not “justice with charity,” but “righteous justice.” Thus, the phrase becomes the equivalent of mishpat-tzedek.
  1. All three approaches find expression regarding various uses of tzedaka u-mishpat in Tanakh:
  1. Chazal and traditional commentaries often follow Approach #1, particularly when mishpat and tzedaka are separated within the text. Regarding the verses cited in this shiur, for example, see Arakhin 8b and Bereishit Rabba 33:1 about Tehillim 36:7; Rashi, Yeshayahu 28:17 and 59:9; and Radak, Tehillim 33:5 and 99:4.
  1. The rabbinic debate about II Shmuel 8:15 in Sanhedrin 6b revolves around Approach #1 vs. Approach #2. R. Yehoshua ben Korcha interprets “mishpat u-tzdaka” as a wholly new concept, namely, “mishpat tempered by tzedaka” (Approach #2). The opposing positions, however, separate David’s activities into the two distinct, traditional categories of mishpat and tzedaka (Approach #1; see Shiur #36). As another example of approach #2, note the Ramban’s comment about Tehillim 33:5: “I am God Who ‘loves charity and justice’ — that is, that I mete out justice only with charity” (Commentary, Bereishit 18:18). Also see R. Soloveitchik, note #11 above.
  1. In a landmark article, “Hendiadys in the Bible,” Tarbiz 16 (1945), 173-189, R. Ezra Zion Melamed cites mishpat u-tzdaka as a frequent example (Approach #3), even when the terms are not adjacent within the text. A hendiadys can sometimes be poetically split between two symmetric half-verses (as in Amos 5:24 and 6:12; Tehillim 58:2, 72:2, and 103:6; and Yeshayahu 58:2), yet still constitute a single phrase. Da’at Mikra makes use of this approach. Regarding the verses cited in this shiur, for example, see Amos Hakham’s commentary on Yeshayahu 33:5 and 59:9 and Tehillim 99:4 and 103:6.
Precedent for Approach #3 exists as well; see, for instance, Mishlei 16:8. See especially the commentary of R. Yosef Kara (an acquaintance of Rashi’s) on Yeshayahu 1:27:
Know that every place that you find “tzedaka” juxtaposed with “mishpat,” tzedaka there does not refer to charity, but rather signifies true justice [=tzedek]. And so, “To perform tzedaka u-mishpat” (Bereishit 18:19); “David would perform mishpat u-tzdaka for his whole nation” (II Shmuel 8:15); and so “mishpat and tzedek you see in society” (Kohelet 5:7); and so all of them.
Like R. Melamed, R. Yosef Kara broadly asserts that tzedaka in the context of mishpat really denotes tzedek. Also see his commentary on Yeshayahu 5:16, along with ibn Ezra and Radak there. Nevertheless, Chazal tend to treat tzedaka as a distinct term (Approach #1 or #2), rather than folding it into mishpat.[22]
  1. While Approach #3 essentially converts tzedaka into tzedek, the Sages frequently do the opposite and reinterpret tzedek as tzedaka. See Shiur #40 regarding Tehillim 119:121 and Iyov 29:14; Shiur #41 regarding Hoshea 2:21; this shiur regarding Tehillim 17:15, 48:11, 89:15, and 97:2; Bava Batra 11a regarding Tehillim 85:12 and Yeshayahu 58:8; Sanhedrin 35a regarding Yeshayahu 1:21; Sifrei on Devarim 24:13 regarding Tehillim 85:14; Bereishit Rabba 43:4 regarding Yeshayahu 41:2; Midrash Tehillim on 119:138; and Midrash Mishlei 14:34 and Midrash Zuta, Shir Ha-shirim 1:15, regarding Devarim 16:20. See especially Midrash Tanchuma, Shofetim, 6, which offers an interpretation of mishpat-tzedek (Devarim 16:18) as tzedaka!
  1. The different approaches above might underlie a debate in Berakhot 12b that revolves around Yeshayahu 5:16. Rav contends that during the Ten Days of Repentance (between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur), one must replace the phrase “the Holy God” in the Amida prayer with the phrase “the Holy King.” R. Elazar disagrees, as a verse that refers to this period — “‘The Lord of Hosts is exalted through mishpat’ when? These are the ten days from Rosh Hashana until Yom Kippur”[23] — nevertheless speaks of “the Holy God” in the continuation: “and the Holy God is sanctified through tzedaka.” R. Elazar evidently combines and conflates the two halves of the verse (Approach #3). The Talmud, however, rules against R. Elazar, perhaps because it maintains the two halves as distinct (Approach #1). As mishpat is the dominant theme during the Days of Awe, the description of “the Holy God,” Who “is sanctified” specifically “through tzedaka,” is not appropriate.
  1. Regarding the eleventh blessing of the Amida:
  1. What is this blessing about? See, for instance, Megilla 17b, Rashi ad loc.; and Berakhot 29a, Rashi ad loc. and Rabbeinu Yona, 19a in Alfasi.
  1. While the common practice is to end the blessing with the words, “King Who loves tzedaka u-mishpat,” a variant practice is to end with “The God of mishpat” (see Meiri, Berakhot 12b; Tur, OC 118). How might this alter the meaning of the blessing?
  1. Regarding the common practice, the Tur quotes his brother, R. Yechiel, who wonders why God’s kingship is at all relevant. In defense, R. Yechiel cites the verse, “The king through justice stabilizes the land” (Mishlei 29:4). Can we recruit other verses in support of the common text?
  1. In the body of the blessing, we ask God to “rule (melokh) upon us (quickly), You, God, alone.” The Sephardic text continues, “with chessed and with rachamim, with tzedek and with mishpat,” closely adhering to Hoshea 2:21. If we assume that Hoshea’s tzedek can be understood as tzedaka (see above), then here, too, we have a merging of tzedaka and mishpat. The Ashkenazi text, however, reads, “with chessed and with rachamim, and find us righteous (tzaddekeinu) in mishpat.” In that case, the concept of tzedaka does not appear, and the blessing would seem to focus primarily on mishpat. How does this alter our understanding of the blessing? Ought we connect this to the issue of the blessing’s closing above?
  1. During the Ten Days of Repentance, one must change the closing of the blessing to “The King of mishpat” (Berakhot 12b). Commentaries discuss whether this is critical only for those who typically say “the God of mishpat,” or also for those who say “King Who loves tzedaka u-mishpat.” How might this debate relate to our interpretation of the blessing? Note, for instance, the Bach’s explanation (OC 118) for why the change is essential even for our common practice:
“King Who loves tzedaka u-mishpat” means that He loves His creations when they perform tzedaka u-mishpat, as in “For I have known him in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of God to perform tzedaka u-mishpat” (Bereishit 18:19). However, “The King of mishpat” means that He sits on His Throne to judge His creations.
  1. For an insightful analysis of this blessing that relates to many of these points, also see this shiur by R. Ezra Bick.
Questions or Comments?
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[1] Also see 37:28 and Yeshayahu 61:8 regarding mishpat and Tehillim 11:7 and Midrash Zuta, Shir Ha-Shirim 1:15 regarding tzedaka.
[2] See Tanchuma, Mishpatim, 1, quoted by Rashi here, as well as ibn Ezra. Radak cites both interpretations. Following the second interpretation, some Biblical scholars connect this verse to Devarim 33:21 — "He performed God’s tzedaka and His mishpatim with the Jewish people” — which they suggest is describing Moshe’s role as a lawgiver (see Mishpat U-tzdaka Be-Yisrael U-ve’amim, 109-110).
[3] Regarding this verse, also see Vayikra Rabba 36:4.
[4] Also see Sifrei on Devarim 33:21, as emended by the Vilna Gaon:
“He performed God’s tzedaka and His mishpatim”: This teaches that tzedaka is bound up with mishpat under the Throne of Glory, as it says, “Tzedek and mishpat are the base of Your throne.”
Compare to Devarim Rabba 5:1 regarding mishpat. Also see Bava Batra 11a. However, see Chagiga 12a-b, which clearly distinguishes between tzedek in this verse and tzedaka.
[5] Also see Yerushalmi Pei’a 1:1. The Sages similarly interpret Tehillim 48:11, contrasting tzedek there with mishpat (also see verse 12):
R. Levi and R. Yitzchak said: Two things are in God’s right and two things in His left. Two things in His right — Torah and tzedakaTzedaka, from where? As it says, “Tzedek filled Your right.” Two things in His left — the soul and mishpat. (Vayikra Rabba 4:1; Devarim Rabba 5:4)
Thus, God employs both tzedaka and mishpat, but tzedaka (metaphorically in His right hand) overpowers mishpat (in His left); see Midrash Tanchuma, Emor, 7.
[6] Also see Mishlei 16:11-12 (which ibn Ezra references in his commentary on Tehillim 97:2) and Yeshayahu 16:5 and 54:14 (also see Rambam, Hilkhot Mattenot Aniyim 10:1).
[7] Also see 2:9-17. The Vilna Gaon connects 5:16 to 1:27, which he interprets as also referring to God’s mishpat and tzedaka.
[8] Also see ibn Ezra and R. Yosef Kara. For more on this approach, see For Further Thought #1-2.
[9] Compare to Berakhot 60b. Previously, we also noted that the pairing of chessed with mishpat can substitute for tzedaka u-mishpat; see the end of Shiur #41. Ibn Ezra and Radak, in fact, understand that David is referring to his own embrace of chessed and mishpat, and both reference the verse of “David would perform mishpat u-tzdaka for his whole nation” (II Shmuel 8:15) in this context. However, compare to R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, “Tzedakah: Brotherhood and Fellowship,” in Halakhic Morality: Essays on Ethics and Masorah, 136.
[10] Also see Tanchuma, Kedoshim, 1. Also see Tanna De-vei Eliyahu Zuta, 1:
Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya’akov, Moshe, Aharon, David, and his son, Shlomo, were only praised through tzedaka… So, too, is the Holy One, blessed be He, praised through tzedaka, as it says, “The Lord of Hosts is exalted through mishpat, and the Holy God is sanctified through tzedaka.”
[11] Radak offers two interpretations: either that God’s salvation is mishpat u-tzdaka, or that through His salvation, performance of mishpat u-tzdaka will return to Zion. Malbim contrasts the mishpat u-tzdaka with which God fills Zion to the physical “bounty” in the preceding verse.
[12] Also see Iyov 37:23.
[13] Rabbeinu Chananel’s text reads “One who loves tzedaka u-mishpat,” mirroring the prooftext. Both versions appear in Yalkut Shimoni (Tehillim 720, 727, 859).
[14] See Reshimot Shiurei Maran Ha-Grid Ha-Levi, Sukka.
[15] See, for instance, Maharsha and Arukh La-ner.
[16] See Hoshea 6:6, Amos 5:21-25, Yeshayahu 1:11-17, and Mikha 6:6-8. The haftara for Parashat Tzav, which begins with Yirmeyahu 7:21-23 and concludes with 9:22-23 (see Rambam, end of Sefer Ahava), conveys the same message. Prof. Weinfeld (127) also notes the contrast between fasting and deprivation, on the one hand, and social justice, on the other, in Yeshayahu 58:5-7.
[17] The text can alternatively be rendered as “one other.” See the Schechter edition; compare to Version B, 8.
[18] Similarly, see Pirkei De-Rabbi Eliezer:
The Holy One, blessed be He, said to the ministering angels, “Let us go and extend chessed to Adam and his companion;” and the Holy One, blessed be He, descended with the ministering angels to extend chessed to Adam and his companion.
The Holy One, blessed be He, said: “Gemilut chassadim is more beloved before Me than peace offerings and burnt offerings that the Jewish people will sacrifice before Me upon the altar in the future, as it says, ‘For I desire chessed and not sacrifice.’” (16; also see 12)
[19] Compare to Version B of Avot De-Rabbi Natan, in which the story of the Temple’s destruction appears earlier, in a section on “worship” (Avot 1:2).
[20] I recall hearing this observation in the name of mori ve-rabbi HaRav Yehuda Amital. Also see this address by mori ve-rabbi HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein.
[21] The Sages further extol at length the spiritual value of tzedaka and mishpat individually. Regarding tzedaka, see also Bava Batra 8b-11a; Tanna De-vei Eliyahu Zuta, 1; Midrash Mishlei 34:14; and Midrash Zuta, Shir Ha-shirim, 1:15. Regarding mishpat, see also Sanhedrin 7a-b; Bava Batra 8b; Shemot Rabba 30:20; Devarim Rabba 5:6; and Midrash Tanchuma, Mishpatim, 4.
[22] Prof. Weinfeld opens Chapter 1 of his book by stating that mishpat u-tzdaka is a hendiadys and referencing R. Melamed’s article (12). However, in the continuation, he stresses that mishpat u-tzdaka is distinct from mishpat-tzedek, and his proposed understanding seems closer to Approach #2 (18-21; also see Shiur #39).
[23] Also see Ramban on Vayikra 23:24.