Shavuot and Justice

There is a reason that in the Ten Commandments, whose revelation we celebrate beginning tonight at Shavuot, the commandment of I am the Lord Your God is juxtaposed with Do Not Murder.

The great Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas said that every commandment to not do something implied a commandment to do something. The commandment to not murder means to not allow murder to happen or to allow murderers to go unpunished.

When look the other way at injustice, even if we did not commit a crime ourselves, we remove God’s presence from the world. Standing up for others, standing with others, and standing for justice is not just part of Judaism. It is the very foundational idea. It is how we create the world that God can feel at home in.

This is a painting I did a number of years ago to celebrate the strength and courage of Ethiopian Jewry, who has lifted all of us to greater spiritual heights. It is a reminder that there is no “they” only “us.”

A sweet and joyous and meaningful Shavuot to all.