According to one Midrash the Torah begins and ends with an act of loving kindness. According to another the whole Torah rests on justice; and with justice it will end: Not until just judgment has come, on the one hand, for the poor and the meek, and on the other, for the wicked, will it be possible for the wolf to dwell with the lamb. (Isa. 11:4-6) All need love even in justice, since justice alone would destroy them.
The ultimate ground for the indispensability of love in justice is implied in a custom of Rabbi Akiba’s. When people came before him in a trifling case, he would tell them the following: “Know before whom you stand — not before me, Rabbi Akiba, but before the Creator of the world.” But who can stand in judgment before God? All need love even in justice, since justice alone would destroy them. And we all stand in judgment before God.
But who is this God before Whom we stand? This question has a clear-cut answer in Judaism in all its forms. The biblical critics postulate an “Elohist” and a “Yahvist” among the sources of the Tenach, according to the two words used for the Deity, Elohim and YHVE. For the rabbis one signifies the divine attribute of judgment; the other that of mercy. On the highest of holy days Jews recite the avinu, malkenu, a plea addressed to a God who is both a loving “father” and judging “king.” The two attributes are both necessary and mutually irreducible. The grounds for both are given in a Midrash in which God is compared to an owner of precious glasses. If the owner pours hot water into them they will break, and also if he pours cold water; so the owner mixes hot and cold, and his glasses are saved. Even so the Master of the universe said unto Himself: If I judge the world in all-forgiving love, sins will abound; if in strict justice, no one will live. So He decided to mix the two, and the world is preserved.
The God of Israel loves the losers of the world [widows, orphans and the poor]; but because they are losers, we are bidden to love them. He also loves justice; but because injustice is rife, we are bidden to seek justice. But when we mete out justice we must take care lest the glasses handed over to us for stewardship break.
From Emil L. Fackenheim, What is Judaism? An Interpretation for the Present Age. Summit Books (New York, 1987).