A community of communities

September 2016

Fri, 09/16/2016 - 8:56am -- Rabbi

This week's Torah portion, Ki Tetse, contains a large number of diverse mitzvot, but many of them circle around a common theme:  treating those we encounter equally.  From the laws of returning lost objects to the requirement to use honest weights and measures, these mitzvot ask us to hold ourselves to a fixed standard of behavior whether we are interacting with a relative, a neighbor, a stranger, or even an enemy.  It is a human tendency to act most favorably with those who are similar to ourselves, but Torah calls us to work against that tendency by acting ethically with all people - those we know and those we don't, those we understand and those who puzzle us, those who support us and those who may oppose us.  We have an obligation to interact equitably with every human being of every shape and size since each, without exception, is created in the image of God.  As we face toward the New Year, we need to remind ourselves of this essential guideline for our behavior, especially in a election season in which the emphasis is often put on highlighting differences between us instead of our common humanity.  May we continually work to hold ourselves to a higher standard and to fulfill the mitzvah of equal treatment for all in every act we take.

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Fri, 09/09/2016 - 9:24am -- Rabbi

Scales of JusticeThis week's Torah portion, Shoftim, gives instructions to judges about how to "pursue justice."  In particular, the Torah advises judges to avoid partiality to any side. They are not to favor the poor out of sympathy or the rich out of fear, and they are not to take bribes that might affect their judgment.  Instead, they are to judge equitably, keeping in mind all of the competing interests and pressures that may be at play, and maintaining their focus on the good of society as a whole.  This focus on trying to make decisions for the good of society as a whole, even though it may not satisfy some individuals, is not just for judges.  All of us make judgments and come to decisions, and all of us can be overly influenced by either our sympathies or our fears.  Torah asks us to try our best to set those aside so that we can see our way to the greater good and make decisions that advance justice for all.  In this month of Elul, as we approach the High Holidays, may we have the insight to follow this path as we make decisions about the paths our own lives may take and how we will interact with others in the year ahead.

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