Blogging Ellul: Justice justice

The High Holidays are classically a time for giving to charity; the unetaneh tokef prayer tells us that through Teshuvah (return) Tefillah (prayer) and Tzedakkah (just giving) we can put our lives back into some balance after the mistakes of the last year and in the language of the liturgy, avert a bad judgement. Tzedakkah is usually translated at charity, but it's root lies in the word tzedek - justice. In last weeks Torah portion we were told 'Justice, Justice shall you pursue' and that doesn't always mean giving cash when asked (though as the synagogue knows this is certainly something we need more of). Tzedakah means giving justice to the world as well, so giving up some time or donating food to the needy, or clothes to a charity shop is also Tzedakah, and in giving Maimonides reminds us that the highest level of Tzedakah is that which empowers the receiver to live with dignity and independence. Indeed standing up to a wrong one witnesses on the street might also be seen as Tzedakah, or challenging prejudice heard around the dinner table or at kiddush. I recently began following @InjusticeFacts on twitter which provides regular reminders of small and large injustices in our world; there is so much still to do. As we spend Ellul putting things back in balance in our personal worlds, we are also encouraged to return justice and balance to the wider world, and each of us making the effort to do this adds a little more justice to a world which increasingly frustrates in its imbalance and extremes. Teshuvah and personal work alone is not enough, Tefillah and communal coming together is not enough, we must join these two to a wider sense of what is right in the world and work for those things beyond ourselves and our own community to really start to avert the bad judgement humanity may have already created for ourselves.


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