Rabbi Orrin’s Response to the Country’s Outcry for Justice

Words feel inadequate to address the hatred that is present in our country today. Whenever it seems as though there is nothing I can say or do as an individual to make peace, I turn to the words of our tradition for guidance. When the Torah wants to stress the importance of a teaching our Bible uses repetition as a way of focusing our attention. “Love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” is one such teaching. This mitzvah, this imperative, is repeated 36 times in our Torah and as such it is one of the most essential teachings of our traditions.

We, as Jews, must love the strangers who are within the midst of our country today. That means that we stand against racism and we stand with the African American community in their fight for justice, equality, and peace. We are here to state unequivocally that the murder of George Floyd must be met with justice, and that we stand against the systematic racism which has lead to disenfranchised communities and the loss of too many black lives.

There are many other teachings from our tradition which need to be included here, such as: “Don’t stand idly by the blood of your neighbor” from Leviticus, or “Justice, Justice, You Shall Pursue” from Deuteronomy, or “Male and Female, in the image of God, God created humanity” from Genesis. But there is one teaching which may not immediately seem applicable, and that is the teaching of Batel B’Shishim, nullification from 1/60th.

This teaching has to do with keeping kosher. The Talmud discusses the case where a drop of dairy accidentally drips into a meat stew. The rabbis want to know – does this make the entire dish unkosher? They rule that as long as the volume of the dairy is 1/60th or less than the volume of the stew, the dish is still kosher.

Over the past week, we’ve seen many peaceful protests, but along with them we’ve also heard stories and seen images of looting and violent troublemakers stirring up scenes of destruction. So, the question must be addressed: does the illegal and immoral behavior of the few who are committing these acts invalidate the entire movement for equal justice due to all people under the law? Our answer must be no, since we know that many protestors, just like the large majority of police officers who secure our country, are good people at heart. They are not the ones who are acting in such a reprehensible manner, just like the vast preponderance of police faithfully do their utmost to protect and serve all people equally. The actions of the few cannot be used to determine what our country must do going forward, much like the one drop of dairy into a meat dish does not make an unkosher meal.

Instead, we have to rely on our own sense of morality as a nation where we cherish the notions of peaceful protest, freedom of speech, and each individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In the days, weeks, and months ahead we all must put in the hard work which is necessary for making sure that every individual is equally loved and protected, and that justice is done.

Stay Safe – Rabbi Orrin Krublit