As slaves, we experienced three primary forms of oppression: gerut (alienation), avdut (servitude) and innui (affliction), [Genesis 15:14]. Our suffering naturally inspires us to acts of social justice in which we attempt to alleviate others’ physical oppression and deprivation. However, we can perceive and interpret our suffering spiritually as well.
Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz |
Special To The Jewish Week |
Having lived in California and Arizona, I’ve seen luscious fruits hanging from trees all around. Unfortunately, a lot of the fruit that these trees produce ripens, falls to the ground and goes to waste. One organization, Falling Fruit, has been trying to address the problem of wasted fruit.
Of all the wisdom and political theory from the great Thomas Paine that has endured perhaps some of his wisest words were those he imparted on the eve of the American revolution: “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must… undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” (The American Crisis, Number IV: Philadelphia, September 12 ). Paine’s words are both thoughtful and inspiring and serve as a reminder that we must constantly defend and enhance our justice system in America to support freedom.
The Torah explains that all of us were present to accept the Law at Mount Sinai (Deuteronomy 29:14). How can this be – if I was not physically present, let alone born, in what way was I present? And, barring a satisfying answer to that question, how can I be bound by a covenant that I didn’t make?
Jewish law is deeply concerned about and committed to healthcare being a matter of collective responsibility. The American Jewish community is vocal in support of healthcare reform, and and over the past few years there has been great progress in ensuring that the most vulnerable are able to get the healthcare they need. Yet the ultimate success or failure of Obamacare may be up to millenials, many of whom are relucant to participate.
Judaism is mostly a rationalist tradition that embraces free will, critical thinking, and the importance of the intellect. Most endeavors that mandate irrational and overly chancy behavior are forbidden by the Jewish tradition. Gambling is one of the prevalent modern activities that may make for fun sport in moderation, but when treated as a primary source of income it borders on the irrational.