Lasting Justice? Omer 24

Lasting Justice? Omer 24
Cherry trees in bloom outdoors seen through a window, illustrating a post that uses the short-lived blossoms to start talking about short-lived justice.

Tiferet. Beauty. Netzach. Endurance. Tiferet she’b’netzach. The beauty of enduring things.

Today I’m feeling contrary. So I’d like to talk about the beauty of things that don’t endure. Like cherry blossoms. And justice.

Cherry blossoms first. Sophia Street is lined with late-blooming cherry trees. Well, today’s their day. Finally! Pink blossoms are popping open like crazy. We may be in a lockdown, but that doesn’t stop the cherry blossom tourists. All day, they come in twos and threes, on foot or by bicycle. And they take pictures of themselves framed in pink.

The blossoms last only a few days. And that is why people run to see them.  Because they’re rare, they’re especially beautiful.

The picture at the top of this post? This is the view from our front window today.

From the outside, though, our house looks a bit different. Yesterday, from across the street, I noticed two young men discussing our window sign. It’s quite simple: END RACISM

Urban window with a sign saying "End Racism," illustrating a post on justice.

For the record: the young men agreed. Maybe I should have invited them in.  Right inside the foyer they would see our FIGHT SEXISM sign. Two steps to the left into our living room they would see STRONGER THAN HATE: UNITED AGAINST ANTISEMITISM sign.

These signs? They’re what I teach. For years, I taught Women’s Studies, fighting sexism through education. Now I co-direct a program in Indigenous and Inter-religious Studies, trying to end racism through education. And I work at a Christian seminary, addressing antisemitism through education.

So I ask myself every day: am I doing enough? Education takes up all my time. But is teaching enough? I split my work time between causes. But are these causes enough?

The answer to all three questions—for me— is No. Always No. Because the work is never done. Some battles have to be fought in every generation. Civil rights, gender equality, Reconciliation, for example. Sometimes we make progress. Then, the world becomes more just. And that is beautiful.

But justice cannot endure. Not without constant tending. Because there’s always someone at hand who prefers a divided community. Hate helps them get votes, clicks, profits, fame. So they’ll stoke racism, sexism, antisemitism. Anytime.

But lives are stake. All our signs come from vigils and protests crying out against murder.We believe any temporary victory for justice saves lives. And that, both Jewish and Islamic teachers say, saves entire worlds. So it’s quite beautiful.

But, justice doesn’t last. Not without constant work, anyway. So is any work ever enough? Not really. That’s why we all need to do it all the time. In whatever community or profession we land.

Today is Day 24 of the Omer, i.e., three weeks and three days.

New to the Omer count? Here’s a primer.

  1. Another perspective…The trial of Derek Chauvin was about accountability….justice implies transformation. Not happening when a 15 y/o Black girl is killed by police with 4 bullets a few minutes after the verdict. I am raging inside.

    1. Thank you, Chava. Our criminal justice system is only set up for retributive justice, i.e., punishment. That’s the little bit that seems to maybe be happening in this one case. Efforts to weave in other kinds of justice, and see a bigger social and interpersonal picture, seem not to stick.

  2. And that’s why Rabbi Tarfon said “You don’t have to finish the work, but you should not desist from beginning it.”

    1. What a perfect connection to make. Thank you, Dr. Rosenfield!

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