The Supreme Court of the United States opened its new session on Monday, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg arrived in style.
The 86-year-old Justice wore one of her many collars, or jabots, her signature accessory. Monday’s jabot has special significance — it was created by the Jewish artist Marcy Epstein, and woven with silk so that it reads, along its edge, “Tzedek.”
“Tzedek,” which means justice, evokes the words “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof,” or “Justice, justice you shall pursue,” one of the most famous quotations from the Torah. The blunt moral call of these words, and the exceptional rarity of a repeated word in the the usually spare Torah, has made these words especially immortal. But there’s even more context — the instruction comes from a portion in the final book of the Torah called “Shoftim,” or “Judges,” which begins with instructions for how society should employ judges, and how those judges can be absolutely just.
The full quote is actually, “Justice, justice you shall pursue that you may thrive and occupy the land that your lord God is giving to you.” Without justice-loving leadership, the Torah suggests, people will not be able to thrive in the land.
Ginsberg’s new Belgian-lace collar, which boasts blue Ethiopian drop opals and geometric beading, was presented to Ginsburg by Moment Magazine in September, when the Justice won the magazine’s Human Rights Award. Accepting the award and the collar, Ginsburg spoke about “tolerating, indeed appreciating, the differences among us.”
This session of the court, which began just days before Yom Kippur, will feature a handful of major cases, including one that will consider the rights of “Dreamers,” one concerning abortion access, and one involving state aid for religious schools. On Tuesday, the court heard three employment discrimination cases and considered whether discrimination based on sex — made illegal under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — includes under its umbrella people who are lesbian, gay, or transgender. These landmark cases could make it so it is illegal to fire people based on their sexuality or transgender identity.
We’ll be keeping an eye on those cases — and any other Torah-influenced fashion choices by Ginsburg.
Correction, October 9, 9:21 p.m. An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that Justice Ginsburg had worn the collar with the Torah verse on Tuesday, the day the Supreme Court heard employment-discrimination cases. In fact, she wore it on Monday, the opening day of the court’s session.
Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny