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  • Writer's pictureRuth Schapira

More bad news? What Judaism says:

I am not sure how, if I didn't have a spiritual practice, I would get through the day after a dose of daily news. Even though I severely limit my time listening and reading to about an hour a day, it is sometimes enough to crush the spirit.

There are those individuals in the spiritual / religious world who can write about the most horrific happenings ---and the aftermath---and to their credit, gently offer positive words of consolation, blessings, prayers and poems. I am not able to do that.

So, what are we to do in the face of that challenge---the challenge of feeling helpless to make a difference? First, we can't absolve ourselves of responsibility.

According to our tradition, in the Talmud:

Anyone who has the capability to protest the wrongdoings of his household and does not protest, he himself is liable for the sins of the members of his household. If he could have protested the sins of the people of his town but did not, he is held liable for the sins of the people of his town. If he is in a position to protest the sins of the whole world and does not do so, he is liable for the sins of the whole world. Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 54b

If at times it feels that we have the weight of the world's sins on our shoulders, the Talmud is saying there's a reason for that. That feeling should propel us to action.

Doing so empowers us against evil, and given that we should do something, every person needs to do an action (given one's talents and skills). Whether you write to legislators or media outlets, protest in rallies or by speaking out, or participate in fundraising / petition efforts...there are many choices. We know this. As we are reminded so many times in our tradition, every person's actions counts, and it counts in more spiritual ways than you might imagine.

There is a beautiful teaching by Rav Kook, in Beha'alotcha, בְּהַעֲלֹֽתְךָ֙ - Numbers 8:1-12:16.

Our sages say that the Menorah represents wisdom (Baba Batra 25b)...and each light represents the many ways of wisdom. In commenting on the verse that contains instructions for the lighting of the menorah:

"God created each of us with a unique character in order that we should perfect ourselves in the particular path that suits us. In this way, all of creation is completed; through the aggregation of all individual perfections, the universe attains overall perfection. Just as each planet symbolizes a distinct character trait, each branch of the Menorah is a metaphor for a specific category of intellectual pursuits. God prepared a path for each individual to attain wisdom according to his own character and interests." (Gold from the Land of Israel pp. 239-240. Adapted from Midbar Shur, pp. 53-55.)

Taking the Talmudic teaching along with Rav Kook's, we need to understand that in perfecting ourselves we are completing part of the puzzle for the universe to move toward perfection. Getting involved in Mussar is a path toward that goal.

There will always be bad news, even if now, it seems that we've been living in the midst of it for quite some time. We can only do what is in our ability to do, and we have to plod on, because in that very capacity lies the perfection of the world!


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