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Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof: Justice, Justice Shall We Pursue

First and foremost, I pray for the safety of family, friends and neighbors inundated by devastating floods in the greater Houston area. Let us keep an eye out for how we as the Emanuel family can be of service.

Second, I am so proud of our recent Friendraiser. Kol ha-kavod, all the respect to Cantor Shelly Friedman and the Membership team for your organization and hospitality. It was so great to see so many volunteers present and meet prospective members. I also appreciate the delicious food made by Mark Warnaar and Susan Bertocchi. Thanks to all.

Lastly, I include Friday night's d'var Torah and an initial reflection about a special experience I want to share with you. Parashat Shoftim features one of the most important teachings in Torah: "Tzedek, tzedek tirdof: Justice, Justice you shall pursue" (Deuteronomy 16:20). This teaching coincides, as it does each year, with the beginning of Elul. That means Rosh Hashanah is coming in a month, and we have time to ready ourselves morally and spiritually. So, the question that follows is: "What can we make of this connection between the pursuit of justice and Elul and how might our thoughts prepare us for the Yamim Nora'im?"

The answer focuses on the key word tirdof, pursue. The 19th-century sage S'fas Emes teaches: "There is no final depth or end to justice and truth." This means that justice is not a destination, it's a journey; so, while we are not obligated to finish the task of ensuring justice, we must not desist from the effort either. It's the toil of climbing the mountain that counts. And even though the pinnacle of justice is God's domain, even though God is the author of ultimate justice, we can do our part through civic and political action, and through acts of tikkun olam, of healing the world. What an excellent way to celebrate Elul.

In this spirit of tikkun olam and mirdaf tzekek, I will participate this Monday, August 28, in the 1000 Ministers March for Justice in Washington, DC. The March is organized by the National Action Network and co-sponsored by the Union of Reform Judaism and the Religious Action Center, among others.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched 54 years ago, we are still marching today for: voting rights, universal healthcare, criminal justice reform, economic justice, and in the broadest sense racial justice. In addition, I will personally march for the dignity of and in solidarity with immigrants and refugees. I will stand up against anti-Semitism and white supremacy.

I want to make this Elul matter. To do so, I am marching to reaffirm my commitment as a rabbi and as a Jew for social justice and civil rights. My commitment is not only to firm up my steps far away in Washington but to gird them here close by in my work with you. We must not stand idly by while any leader, national, state and/or local, falls asleep on Dr. King's dream. I plan to amplify the messages I hear in Washington as we approach the High Holy Days, during the Yamim Nora'im and beyond. And, upon my return, I hope you will continue the walk with me as we pursue lasting justice together.

Tzedek, tzedek nirdof. Justice justice shall we pursue. Thank you, God, for the capacity to pursue justice and the healing that sacred work brings. During this month of Elul and beyond, may we pray with our feet. May we raise our voices. May we do all the little things on the journey for justice that make a difference. Please inspire our resolve and strengthen our steps as we seek to be a collective force for good.

Kain yehi ratzon!

Make it a day of blessing and be a force for good!

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