Rabbi’s Review – October 2017

Justice Takes Many Forms

Rabbi Charles K. Briskin


There shall be no needy among you.” (Deuteronomy 15:4) “If, however, there is a needy person among you…do not harden your heart and shut your hand…Rather you must open your hand and lend him sufficient for whatever he needs.” (Deuteronomy 15:7)

These famous verses of Torah first describe the ideal conditions for society, and then the reality in which our community exists. These verses are two among countless others that provide our impulse to engage in justice work, whether through direct service, advocacy or education. Justice work is even part of TBE’s mission statement where we invite everyone to “pursue justice with us.”

But what does that mean?

Any activity that improves the lives of others, especially those less fortunate than us, is a form of justice work. Some is rooted in direct service projects. For example: bringing food to TBE during the High Holy Days, which we then donate to SOVA and Harbor Interfaith Services, is a form of justice work. Hosting homeless families with Family Promise is a form of justice work. Donating money and gift cards to provide relief for those affected by the recent hurricanes is a form of justice work.

Some pursue justice through advocacy. When our members join dozens of other Reform Jews in Sacramento with Reform CA to discuss important pieces of legislation or policy, they are doing justice work. When we work with the City of Los Angeles and local providers of homelessness services to increase access to housing and resources for the temporarily or chronically homeless, we are doing justice work. When we mobilize to defend the rights of immigrants, especially those threatened by DACA’s removal, we are doing justice work.

All of our activities are rooted in our texts and tradition. Despite those who think otherwise, our responses are not motivated by politics, but rather by ethics. If people aren’t being taken care of, or our system of checks and balances isn’t protecting them, we respond with education, investigation and action.

On page 8 of Kol Beit El, you can read about our Social Justice Committee’s current priorities. If these issues move you to act or advocate, or simply to learn more, please contact Carrie in the TBE office and add your name to a growing email distribution list so that you can be kept apprised of our work.

Together we endeavor to make the words of Aleinu ring true: L’taken olam b’malkhut Shaddai—we strive to “repair the world for God’s sake” (and I would add for our sake as well). We have a vital role to play in this work. Please join us.