Tzemach Tzadik by Rabbi Leone di Modena Chapter 20 Justice and Fairness


Back to chapter 19 about stupidity

Translated by Ralph Anzarouth and an anonymous friend

Justice and fairness:

Justice involves giving each and every person his fair portion, neither more nor less. There are three prerequisites for one to be a seeker of justice and a fairness enthusiast: the first is that he should possess the power and the authority to achieve it; the second requires that he should be thoroughly versed in the subject which he wishes to judge; the third is that he should desire to judge wholly according to the truth in accordance with fair standards.

Look to your right and observe the [trait of] fairness and justice in the queen bee1 which orders its affairs justly. This is because different bees have different functions: some of them have the task of going and collect [nectar] from the flowers to make the honey; others refine and produce the honey; there are others whose task it is to escort the queen; and there is yet another group in charge of order enforcement, since it is in the nature of the bees to be in a state of strife with each other to take the honey from the other. None of them will go out before its queen and every one of them greatly respects it. When the queen grows old and it is too week to fly, a great number of them carry it wherever it wants. All the bees have a sting in their tail, except for the queen. Some of the queens are black in colour and others are red and they are of greater stature than the rest of the bees.

King Solomon said in his book of wisdom: "Do not seek to be a judge unless you have the power to punish the wrongdoers". He further said: "Love justice, you judges of the land". Hermes said: "Do not punish anyone unless he has had an opportunity to present his case and do not procrastinate lest something happens to hinder justice". Seneca said: "Somebody who cannot rule himself cannot rule others. Tullius said: "Justice is the mother of all virtues and nothing can endure without it". A wise man said: "Five things will pervert justice: love, envy, supplication, fear and bribery". Socrates said: "Rulers of the cities, beware of associating with evil people, since everything bad which occurs in the city is attributed to the ruler". Plato said: "Never try to give advice to somebody more capable than you, since if harm results from your advice it will rebound on you". And the sweetest of all comes from the concise expression of the prophet Isaiah (32, 1): "A king shall rule for the sake of justice".

It is true that (Psalms 58, 12): "There is divine justice in the world" and (Deuteronomy 32, 4): "The actions of the Rock2 are perfect; all His ways are justice".

We find written about a devout man who was very righteous and who served the Lord for many years. When he was beset by a severe and lasting incurable illness, he began to complain and protest against Divine Providence. An angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him: "Come with me, since the Lord has commanded me to reveal to you some of the secrets and mysteries of His ways". He accompanied the angel and they entered a house in which there was a chest full of gold coins, which the angel picked up and brought and placed at the entrance of [another] house. Afterwards he led him to another house and killed a small child who was lying in a cradle. When the devout man saw these deeds, he wanted to get away from the angel, since he thought that this was a spirit or an evil specter who only harms. At this, the angel said to him: "Stay where you are and I will teach you the logic behind all this: the coins which I took are the result of their owner having sold all his property and collected this money in order to hire an assassin to kill a certain person whom he had hated for a long time. If that person had been killed all the inhabitants of the city would have been upset at his death since he was a honest man. I therefore took that money in order to prevent this crime and to cause its owner to repent of his evil intention and I placed the money at that entrance, since the owner of that house had lost his ship at sea with all his wealth and as a result of his great distress and anger he wished to put an end to his life. Now upon finding those coins he will be consoled and will choose life rather than death. I killed that child since before his birth, his father was a straightforward, righteous and G-d-fearing man. After birth of this child, his father turned into a wicked man stealing and plundering: and as a result of their fathers' sins children die young: I therefore killed the child in order that his father return from his wicked ways. You also should not wonder at the suffering which you are undergoing since the Almighty sees and knows that if you had not undergone it you would not be a devout and righteous man. You must believe that nothing good or bad comes from Heaven unless it is just: the Holy One blessed be He cannot be suspected of making an unjust judgement and He [always] minimizes the harm. However, people without knowledge of the secrets of Hashem's ways will wonder and be surprised". When the angel finished explaining these things he disappeared from his sight. The devout man then went to verify his words and found that everything was true and correct and as a result he was appeased: he reverted to his original pursuit of justice and kindness.

Notes of the translators:
[1] The original texts in the Holy Tongue uses the term "king of the bees" which is an uncommon usage. It also adds the equivalent Italian term for 'bees' which is "Api'.
[2] The term "Rock" refers to Hashem, of course.

The whole book Tzemach Tzadik in Hebrew (printed in Rashi characters) can be downloaded in PDF format and read online at Chapter 20 about justice and fairness is found at pages 42-45.