Pursue Justice

This new Jewish year of 5775 is Congregation Emeth’s Year of Living Jewishly. (If you missed last week’s explanation go to Emeth.net, and click the button on the homepage for Rabbi’s blog.)

Here’s this week’s Mitzvah of the Week*:

Pursue Justice: Work relentlessly for all and for each to live in dignity, and with equal opportunity for safety, food, education, healthcare, religion, culture, and more.

This mitzvah comes from Deuteronomy 16:20 in Torah, in the chapter named Shoftim, Judges. The opening paragraph of this chapter tells the people that judges need to be appointed, and those judges may not show impartiality and accept bribes, which will influence their decisions. Then the core mitzvah: “Justice, justice shall you pursue!” Pursuing justice is different than simply being just. The word pursue tells us that we must chase after justice, and we must do so eagerly and actively.

How can we – ordinary citizens – perform this mitzvah? We must be advocates for those who aren’t in a position to advocate for themselves. We must make sure that everyone gets what s/he needs to live – housing (shelter), food, clothes.

How can we as individuals “pursue justice”? A few ideas for you to consider:

– There is an election coming up. Are there candidates you can support who understand distributive justice (a socially just allocation of goods)? Support those candidates and/or work on their behalf.

– What can you do to make sure people get what they need to live justly? We still did not collect the amount of food donations compared to previous years. It’s not too late to bring food for Emeth’s food drive. Put clothes in our clothing collection bucket. Work on a Habitat for Humanity house.

– Protest businesses whose practices are not just. An unverified web search (reported on multiple sites) revealed: there are an estimated 200 children, some 11 years old or younger, who are sewing clothes for Hanes, Wal-Mart, J.C. Penny, and Puma at the Harvest Rich factory in Bangladesh. Hershey’s produces its chocolates from cocoa beans picked by child slaves. Victoria’s Secret, Forever 21, Aeropostale, and Urban Outfitters use cotton picked by child laborers. And so much more! Do your own web search and see if the stores you frequent use child labor. Write the corporate headquarters and complain – and stop shopping there until they become just corporations.

What will you do this week for your mitzvah? Write in your journal and report back on the Rabbi’s blog! You will give others ideas!

May you have a week of joy and a Shabbat of peace,
Rabbi Debbie Israel

*The “mitzvah card” comes from the packet of Mitzvah Cards, produced by Reclaiming Judaism (www.reclaimingjudaism.org) Each week, our oldest students in the Amirim class – bar/bat mitzvah and pre-bar/bat mitzvah – pick a card for Emeth’s Mitzvah of the Week.