Susan Sontag, "Regarding the Pain of Others" (New York: Picador, 2003)
So far as we feel sympathy, we feel we are not accomplices to what caused the suffering. Our sympathy proclaims our innocence as well as our impotence. To that extent, it can be (for all our good intentions) an impertinent — if not an inappropriate — response. To set aside the sympathy we extend to others beset by war and murderous politics for a consideration of how our privileges are located on the same map as their suffering, and may — in ways that we prefer not to imagine — be linked to their suffering, as the wealth of some may imply the destitution of others, is a task for which the painful, stirring images supply only the initial spark. .... Suggested Discussion Questions 1. In what way is our affluence on the same map as the destitution of others? 2. We did not create this system, nor are we at fault for it. Nonetheless, it exists. How can we best respond to it?
Kesef Mishneh, Laws of Murder 1:14
One must put oneself in possible jeopardy in order to save someone whose life is in certain danger [because], “something doubtful cannot outweigh something that is certain.
(ב) רַבִּי חֲנִינָא סְגַן הַכֹּהֲנִים אוֹמֵר, הֱוֵי מִתְפַּלֵּל בִּשְׁלוֹמָהּ שֶׁל מַלְכוּת, שֶׁאִלְמָלֵא מוֹרָאָהּ, אִישׁ אֶת רֵעֵהוּ חַיִּים בְּלָעוֹ.
Rabbi Chanina, the deputy Cohen Gadol, says “Pray for the welfare of the government, because if people did not fear it, a person would swallow their fellow alive.” [Translation by Uri L’Tzedek. Edited for gender neutrality]
Babylonian Talmud, Ta'anit 11a
At a time when the community is suffering, no one should say, “I will go home, eat, drink, and be at peace with myself.” [AJWS Translation]English
Moshe's Moral Bravery - "Darkhei Moshe", Parshat Shemot
Moreover when one of our fellow Jews is exploiting someone else – one cannot turn a blind eye and action must be taken to help and rescue the oppressed. Even when the oppressed person is not of our faith, it is proper that even in such a situation one stand in support of those that are being persecuted, because any oppressor is repulsive to God (Deut. 25:16).
Abraham Joshua Heschel, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity. (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996)
What is involved in being a Jew? Duties of the heart, not only external performance; the ability to experience the suffering of others, compassion and acts of kindess; sanctification of time, not the mere observance of customs and ceremonies; the joy of discipline, not the pleasures of conceit; sacrifice, not casual celebrations; contrition rather than national pride.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, Eight Candles of Consciousness: Essays on Jewish Nonviolence
Racism is man’s gravest threat to man—-the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.
Loving-kindness and truth met; justice and peace kissed. Truth will spring up from the earth; justice will look down from heaven. God will also bestow good and our land will yield its produce. Justice will go before God as God sets out on God's way.
Listen to this, you who devour the needy, annihilating the poor of the land, saying, "If only the new moon were over, so that we could sell grain; the sabbath, so that we could offer wheat for sale, using an ephah that is too small, and a shekel that is too big, tilting a dishonest scale, and selling grain refuse as grain! We will buy the poor for silver, the needy for a pair of sandals."