Justice Is Not Just For Us
By Rachel Sumekh
this piece was published in The Skribe.
“Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof” – Justice Justice You Shall Pursue (Deuteronomy 16:18).
No, that’s not a typo. The word “justice” is repeated, in my opinion, for two reasons. First, to remind us to pursue justice, justly. Second, to remind us to pursue justice for ourselves, and for others.
Those who know me know that I talk about injustice often. I talk about homelessness, voting, human rights, and child marriage. Like many of you, I was taught in Hebrew school that every human being is created in the image of G-d. Given this, of course all lives, including black lives, matter (although I’m sure there are a few Persian mothers who think their sons lives matter deh most)…but I digress.
In the wake of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions, it has become apparent to me that our society is struggling with who’s lives we find worthy of dignity.
If we all agree that every human being is worthy of life and of dignity, then why did hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe take over our newsfeeds? Why were some of the most respected Rabbis moved to take to the streets and proclaim that Black lives are valuable? It is because if we look at the stories, the history, and the numbers, Black lives have not mattered.
Another thing I learned in Hebrew school was the story of Hanukkah. The oil which was only enough for one night, burned for eight nights– a miracle! But, Rabbi David Hartman suggests the true miracle was not the seven nights that followed, but the bold act of our ancestors who dared to light the wick on that first night, knowing it couldn’t last. What courage it takes to start something knowing you might not have what it takes to make it through to the end.
As we witness injustices around the world, how can we embody the same fearlessness our ancestors practiced on that first, dark night? By daring to create a light and every night after, gradually, watching that light grow.