Friday we took a boat to Key West, an island in the Florida Keys that contains the Southernmost Point in the United States, 90 short miles from Cuba. The island is inhabited by an open-minded population who adopted as their slogan the philosophy that all people are equal members of one human family. Being there was a lovely way to spend a Friday afternoon!!
Key West’s philosophy reminded me of this statement by Hillel Zeitlin, a Hasid who lived in Warsaw, Poland, in the first half of the 20th Century:
In the Hasidim of the future the love of God will shine forth and burn even more brightly than it did in the days of the BeSHT [Ba’al Shem Tov (1700-1760 ce)]. The “Love of Israel” will be transformed into a great worldwide “Love of Humanity.” **
Later in that same paragraph, Zeitlin explains:
. . . “Justice, Justice shall you pursue” (Deut 16:20) will be spread through all social relationships. Justice will be demanded not only of the opposing class . . . but people will demand justice of themselves. Pursuit of justice will be not only a public matter (as it is today), but rather one of individual concern. Each person will think not only about how to avoid being exploited, but rather about how to avoid exploiting the other. **
And I thought that might be a nice idea to carry with us in these weeks following Passover . . . .
During Passover, we focus on our own personal liberation from Egypt and look for ways to release ourselves from the “narrow straights” that (emotionally & psychologically) constrain us today. But now, as we Count the Omer and march through the desert toward the revelation of Gd’s presence at Mount Sinai on Shavuot, we need also demand justice of ourselves. We must begin to consider how we, as individuals, can avoid exploiting all others, so that one day all people might think of themselves as part of ONE HUMAN FAMILY.
shavua tov (a good week) to all, jen
** both quotes taken from Hillel Zeitlin’s “What Does Yavneh Want?” as translated by Rabbi Arthur Green in Hasidic Spirituality for a New Era: The Religious Writings of Hillel Zeitlin, Paulist Press (New York 2012).