Midrash Tanhuma, Mishpatim 2
מדרש תנחומא משפטים ב
מַלְכָּהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה, בְּמִשְׁפָּט שֶׁהוּא עוֹשֵׂה, מַעֲמִיד אֶת הָאָרֶץ... אִם מֵשִׂים אָדָם עַצְמוֹ כִּתְרוּמָה הַזּוּ שְׁמוּשְׁלֶכֵת בְּזָוִיוֹת הַבָּיִת וְאוֹמֵר: מָה לִי בְּטוֹרַח הַצִּבּוּר ?מָה לִי בְּדִינֵיהֶם? מָה לִי לִשְׁמוֹעַ קוֹלָם? שָׁלוֹם עָלֶיךָ נַפְשִׁי! הֲרֵי זֶה מַחֲרִיב אֶת הָעוֹלָם.
If a person of learning participates in public affairs and serves as judge or arbiter, that person gives stability to the land... But if a person sits in their home and says to themselves, “What have the affairs of society to do with me?... Why should I trouble myself with the people’s voices of protest? Let my soul dwell in peace!”—if one does this, they overthrow the world. [translation by Hazon]

Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. When do you sit at home when you might stand up and make a difference? Why is it often easier to do so?

2. What does this text say about the relationship between power and responsibility?

3. “Person of learning” refers to those in society who have training, a higher profession, or power of some other kind. This text is specifically speaking to those who are in power in society – and who still have responsibility to act for others. In today’s society, who would you replace “person of learning” with?

Time Period: Rabbinic (Maccabees through the Talmud)