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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Elul 2 - Justice, Mercy and Humility - by Rabbi Jim Bennett

This past week, I have been asked repeatedly, in one form or another, “What do you think about a rabbi wearing a tallis getting arrested in downtown St. Louis? I’m sure glad it wasn’t you.” 

When I became a Bar Mitzvah many years ago, my assigned Haftarah portion came from chapter 6 of the book of Micah. I have never forgotten the famous words that the prophet Micah thundered out. I thought he was speaking to me: “It has been told you, oh man, what is good, and what God demands of you:  only that you do Justice, love Mercy, and walk Humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

As a thirteen year old, I understood the demands of justice to be about simple fairness. Mercy was about kindness, and humility about God was about faith. Years later, as this month of Elul begins, my understanding has deepened.

Justice, I now understand, is about standing up for what is right, taking great risks to correct wrongs, and not succumbing to apathy or despair.

Demanding justice is our God-given responsibility. We are commanded to fight the temptation to fool ourselves into thinking that everything is just fine. We may not remain indifferent. Even more, we must refuse to condemn others whose tolerance for injustice is less buried than our own. 

The racial injustice in our society persists and grows each day and demands our response. When Rabbi Susan Talve and many others marched in protest downtown last week, I believe they wanted to get arrested in order to get our collective attention. They wanted us to wake up from our stupor, climb out from behind our walls of denial, and join them in the fight for justice. I am grateful for what they did.   

The question should not be about them. It is about us. Will we respond to Micah’s call? Will we demand that justice be done? Will we act with mercy? Will we be filled with humility?

It is Elul. There is no time like the present.

Rabbi Jim Bennett

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