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Justice is built on small events

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Justice justice shall you pursue,” which we will be reading shortly in the book of Deuteronomy, is more than a demand that people live righteously; but that doing right is an essential rule for civilized society. In biblical Hebrew there is as much a reticence for redundancy as there is in modern English. As countless Jewish Sages emphasize, repetition of words in the Bible is purposeful. Repetition is for emphasis.

Last week, here in Columbus, a car was towed by the police twice within a week when it was left in an unmarked, no-parking zone. Apparently in the University neighborhood there was roadwork being done. Workers had posted temporary no parking signs to prevent drivers from parking curbside. The posters did nothing wrong, but they did not perform above and beyond a simple standard. And as NBC’s channel four news team revealed, there were some signs on the roadway, others under tires or under cars or on sidewalks, when its camera crew reconnoitered the area. None could be found from a driver’s line of sight. Only a driver with a strong sense of clairvoyance could avoid being ticketed or towed. Sadly this driver has no ESP and was trapped by police’s lack of due diligence.

The police department should do rightly by the driver, if rules are truly just. They should make sure that if the work is to continue on those affected streets, that signs must be posted in a manner that prevents vandals from removing them and with enough firmness to stop signs from falling. Before towing, it must be able to verify that signs remain easily visible, before rules are enforced. The department should refund the money the driver was charged for removing his vehicle from the impound lot. It should apologize publicly for the inconvenience its enforcement zealousness brought.

On a grand scale this set of occurrences is a small matter. It will not likely have major repercussions for anyone beside the unfortunate driver. On a grand scale it is these small matters that are truly most consequential. Small occurrences shape daily life. They are the thread from which life experience is woven. Habits are built on the repetition of such minor events.

Doing what is right and proper should be automatic. Aberrations should be noteworthy because of their exceptionality. Doing what is proper and right should be so deeply seated that wandering from the path is difficult. That is the premise upon which Halacha, usually defined as Jewish Law or Practice, is founded.
When the local police model good behavior, they will be role models to which all can look for guidance.
One more matter, as channel four reporters did note, the driver has the right to contest both the ticket and the impounding. In a just society, the community should do right without requiring him to go to that irksome bother.

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