We must teach these words to our children. We cannot afford to be distracted; the world depends on us.
“. . . teach them to your children, talking of them, reciting them when you stay at home, and when you are way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19)
In our homes, we must teach and model Jewish ethical principles to our children. We must behave according to these principles, so that our kids know that we mean what we say and that we act on these principles — and justice will reign in our homes. Outside (when we are “on our way”), our lips should be full of words of justice, objecting to the racist joke, protesting loudly the unjust acts that our politicians might support, and “when [we] lie down,” we must each day do a heshbon hanefesh (spiritual inventory) to assess our behavior: Did we act justly? Did we offend? Did we stand up for justice this day? And when we “rise up,” we must do so with courage and resolve to repeat again the cycle of justice: teaching our children, speaking of justice as a daily habit in our workplaces, and in our places of recreation, in paying attention to the issues of the day when we come home. Each and every day, we must be mindful and focused on justice, and we must hold to a vision of how to act justly as Jews. We cannot afford to be distracted. The world depends on us.
Rabbi Leila Gal Berner (RRC ’89) is Dean of Students of the ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal Ordination Program, where she teaches history, midrash and feminist thought. She is nearing completion of a book on Contemplative Torah titled A Listening Heart: Genesis.