Sharing the light

New calendars being hung in our homes signal the start of a new time with another chance to strive for unity, brotherhood, dialogue and the pursuit of social justice.

September 23, 2017 22:49
3 minute read.
Sharing the light

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish pilgrim blows a shofar, near the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov during the celebration of Rosh Hashanah holiday, the Jewish New Year, in Uman, Ukraine, September 21, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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In the interim of the High Holy Days, the 10 days between judgment and sentencing according to Jewish tradition are an interval that affords the observant and the secular of our nation the annual opportunity to renew our commitment to Klal Yisrael, the future of the Jewish people wherever they may live.

The new calendars being hung in our homes signal the start of a new time, to be marked on a clean slate, with another chance to strive for unity, brotherhood, dialogue and the pursuit of social justice that is the ultimate justification – and sole condition for – both our right to our homeland and our duty to be a light to the other nations by our example.

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In our wish to all the Jewish people for a better new year, we offer some suggestions for things to repent for while awaiting our collective sentencing from the Highest Court on Yom Kippur.

One would be to repent for accepting our state of civil inequality as normative; in other words, acknowledging the problem. The name of the game is “Repentance, prayer and charity avert the evil decree.” It can happen only if we realize that we have serious problems to solve.

According to Gates of Repentance, a standard treatise on Jewish ethics written by Rabbi Yonah of Gerona (died 1264), a sinner repents by fulfilling several of 14 principles, including: regretting/acknowledging the sin; refraining from committing the same sin if the opportunity presents itself again; and teaching others not to sin.

For two millennia, Jewish thought has focused on the interplay of ethics with the rule of law. The current assault on the Supreme Court is one we shall be forced to consider in the new year.

Once we have acknowledged the sin of social inequality, we can proceed to Rabbi Yonah’s second principle: refraining from committing the same sin if the opportunity presents itself again. This opportunity to reconsider pluralism in matters if religion and state has been scorned by a government sinfully voting for its own survival rather than the principle of social justice.

Rabbi Yonah’s third principle applies directly to pursuing justice in the coming year: teaching others not to sin. Transmitting our values to the next generation requires a better educational system than the present one, which presents a glaring contrast between low international achievement and the miracle of the Start-Up Nation.

Until we realize the necessity of all acquiring the practical knowledge that can provide a source of livelihood, a large segment of our population will remain dependent on charity, because it refuses to study the core subjects of basic knowledge of the world.

Teaching others is a function of role models, many of whom unfortunately are under criminal investigation.

This is a teaching moment in Jewish history, one which follows the fundamental commandment to pursue peace. Maimonides comments in his Mishneh Torah: “Great is peace, as the whole Torah was given in order to promote peace in the world, as it is stated, ‘Its ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace.’” The promise of future peace can be fulfilled only by peaceful acts, such as respecting the property rights of others.

Compromise is clearly mandated by our tradition, particularly with regard to borders.

But it is needed on both sides of this ongoing conflict.

Peace, if a goal, can be achieved. But it first needs leaders and peoples who want it to happen and need to create societies, cultures and education systems that foster that sentiment. Peace is not something that will occur on its own.

The key is the necessary and sufficient condition that applies to all of us, observant and secular, as stated in Deuteronomy 16:20: “Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

The operating principle for the new year is that, as always, it is not our responsibility to complete these tasks, but neither are we free to ignore them (Pirkei Avot 2:21)

Shana tova!

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