I had a wonderful opportunity to attend a retreat this week for those involved in religious activities. The theme was justice and we were involved in a day of study, prayer, and meditation that dealt with this important concept.
I was very moved by our discussions, particularly as they related to two very different areas in which justice can be integrated into our lives. One of the areas dealt with responding justly to people who live in places where there is great need. We studied an essay written by Jill Ramaker Hendricks who is the founder/director of Wyoming Haiti Relief. She wrote: (this is a paraphrase)
It’s painful, overwhelming, confusing. It’s warm, as in friendly, and hot as in nothing you have ever experienced…It’s delicate and graceful as a tall beautiful young mother who balances a fifty pound basket of Mangoes on her head as she reaches down to hold her small child’s hand…It’s edgy with the UN occupation in place and the growing national police presence.It’s desperate as men climbing high on tumbled buildings to scavenge building materials. It’s long-suffering…grueling…grimy, and…It’s crying out for justice…”
I hope that as each of us responds to someone in need, that we will remember that as a people, we are commanded in the Torah to pursue justice. We have known for years that Haiti had great need and yet we did not pursue justice as fervently as we might have…rather we waited for the disastrous earthquake and then the world responded with great effort and energy Each of us should find ways in which we can actively pursue a just cause.
We also talked in small groups about establishing just relationships with the people with whom we have contact. I couldn’t help but think of how many of us establish relationships with people based upon hearsay and perceptions. I was inspired to be sure that the relationships that are most important to me be based upon truth and honest communication. I hope that as we pursue justice in our own personal, family, college, student, professional, and friendship relationships, we will be just and really try to put ourselves in the place of others before making making judgments about them. Martin Buber talks about establishing meaningful relationships and characterizes these as I Thou….honestly getting in touch with others and who they really are…I hope we will make the time to do this with the people who are important to us, whether they are parents, children, siblings, friends, professors, students, or acquaintances.
For those who are traveling over the Holiday break, be safe. Enjoy a wonderful Holiday season and a healthy, safe 2011.
Rabbi Bruce Aft