Parashat B'ha'alotekha

Our Covenantal Responsibilities

This week's parashah reminds us of our sacred obligations to those who are still languishing in oppression.

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Taking Action

As Jews, we have a special responsibility to try to combat modern forms of oppression. To celebrate our own liberation from slavery without working to empower those who are still oppressed is to fail to live in our fullest potential of covenantal relationship with God.

Our tradition teaches, "You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to refrain from it." As Jews we understand that our covenant with God comes with many obligations and responsibilities. We are obligated to celebrate our liberation and to remember our redemption, and we are invited to welcome others to join with us in these celebrations.

Whether our global neighbors are oppressed by regimes of hatred and violence or subjugated by poverty, starvation, and indifference, this week's parashah reminds us of our sacred obligations to those who are still languishing in oppression.

Our history as Jews and our covenantal responsibilities to God can and should inform our actions today. When we buy food and products that have been ethically produced and reflect the dignity of the people who produce them, we are celebrating our own liberation from slavery. When we call our elected representatives and contact them regularly to make Darfur intervention a priority, we are commemorating our own redemption. Let us fulfill our covenantal relationship with God by continuing to strive for liberation and redemption so that those who are suffering may know justice and peace.

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Rabbi Devorah Marcus is Assistant Rabbi at Temple Beth-El of Great Neck.