Not “just us”
September 6, 2019
By Rabbi Jonathan Freirich

A Torah Cover from the Tree of Life * Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh will join us this High Holy Day Season when we celebrate S’lichot as a community at Congregation Shir Shalom and during Rosh HaShanah at Temple Beth Zion.

Cantor Penny Myers’ connection with their Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers goes beyond their shared family name. Their relationship as colleagues brings this important symbol of community connection to Western New York. We remember the tragedy that occurred at Tree of Life on October 27, 2018, and we turn towards a shared future with hope and determination.

This week we read the famous phrase: tzedek tzedek tirdof – “Justice, justice, you shall pursue” – in Deuteronomy 16:19. The repetition of the word “justice” calls out for interpretation.

We can say that justice must always be pursued by stepping out of our selves. We must connect with those who are not like us, who live elsewhere, who seem different, in order to truly pursue justice – because it must be more than justice for “just us”.

We connect with our fellow Jews in Pittsburgh, and we are called to connect with our fellow Western New Yorkers from diverse ethnicities and religions. We must sympathize with people who come from similar backgrounds and neighborhoods and extend ourselves to find common ground with those who seem foreign to us.

Even more, the repetition of “justice” reminds us that we cannot understand what justice means on our own. The concept of justice itself requires conversation with others so that we can explore how each of us define it in our own way.

Only when we come to a broader definition, one that stretches our minds, hearts, and souls, can we embark on a journey of justice for all.

Wishing everyone a meaningful Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Freirich is a spiritual leader at Temple Beth Zion.

Not "just us" - Jewish thought of the week graphic