What Does Study Have To Do With Social Justice, Anyway?
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Explore the role of study in Social Justice... Is it more important than taking action?

Below are selected readings exploring which is more important, study or action, in the pursuit of Social Justice. Read through these texts and discuss with your study partner what role character plays in creating Social Justice and why character is an important piece in practicing Social Justice. Use the questions below as conversation starters; feel free to develop questions of your own.

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Rabbi Yehudah HaChassid, from Sefer Chasidim, trans. Avraham Finkel (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc, 1997), 118-119
A man who was the most astute buyer of merchandise in town devoted all his spare time to Torah study. One day, a widow asked him to buy a certain article for her. He declined, saying, “I’m sorry, but I simply cannot give up my Torah studies.” A venerable old rabbi interjected, “Do you think that you are better than Rabbi Gamliel and Rabbi Yehoshua? The Talmud tells us that they interrupted their Torah studies to go to the market to buy an animal for the wedding feast of Rabbi Gamliel’s daughter (Talmud Bavli Makkot 14a), and on the way discussed Torah topics. You should do the same. When you buy the article for the widow, keep your mind on Torah issues. And when you buy merchandise at a favorable price, the money you save her is counted as your tzedakah, and God will repay you for your trouble." [Avraham Finkel translation]
Suggested Discussion Questions

1. What would make the scholar think that Torah study supersedes helping the widow?
2. In our own lives, how do we make those prioritizations?
3. What are we meant to learn from this story?

BabylonianTalmud, Kiddushin 40b
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וכבר היה רבי טרפון וזקנים מסובין בעלית בית נתזה בלוד, נשאלה שאילה זו בפניהם: תלמוד גדול או מעשה גדול? נענה רבי טרפון ואמר: מעשה גדול, נענה ר"ע ואמר: תלמוד גדול, נענו כולם ואמרו: תלמוד גדול, שהתלמוד מביא לידי מעשה.
Rabbi Tarfon and some elders were reclining in an upper chamber in the house of Nitza in Lod when this question came up: Which is greater, study or action? Rabbi Tarfon spoke up and said: Action is greater. Rabbi Akiva spoke up and said: Study is greater. The others then spoke up and said: Study is greater because it leads to action. [Soncino translation]
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Suggested Discussion Questions

1. Which Rabbi (Tarfon or Akiva) do you agree with? Why?

2. What "action" is being discussed here?
3. What kind of study is important for social justice? Why?
4. In your experience, does study really lead to action? If so, how?