Protest, Coalition Politics, and the Women's March

I. The Imperative of Protest

כל מי שאפשר למחות לאנשי ביתו ולא מיחה נתפס על אנשי ביתו

באנשי עירו נתפס על אנשי עירו

בכל העולם כולו נתפס על כל העולם כולו.

Anyone who had the capability to effectively protest the sinful conduct of the members of his household and did not protest, he himself is held responsible for the sins of the members of his household and punished. If he is in a position to protest the sinful conduct of the people of her town, and he fails to do so, he is held responsible for the sins of the people of her town. If he is in a position to protest the sinful conduct of the whole world, and he fails to do so, he is held responsible for the sins of the whole world.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, "Religion and Race" (Jan. 14 1963)

There is an evil which most of us condone and are even guilty of: indifference to evil. We remain neutral, impartial, and not easily moved by the wrongs done unto other people. Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself; it is more universal, more contagious, more dangerous. A silent justification, it makes possible an evil erupting as an exception becoming the rule and being in turn accepted. The prophets’ great contribution to humanity was the discovery of the evil of indifference. One may be decent and sinister, pious and sinful...However, an honest estimation of the moral state of our society will disclose: Some are guilty, but all are responsible.

רב יהודה הוה יתיב קמיה דשמואל אתאי ההיא איתתא קא צווחה קמיה ולא הוה משגח בה אמר ליה לא סבר ליה מר אוטם אזנו מזעקת דל גם הוא יקרא ולא יענה אמר ליה שיננא רישך בקרירי רישא דרישיך בחמימי הא יתיב מר עוקבא אב בית דין...אמר ליה רבי זירא לרבי סימון לוכחינהו מר להני דבי ריש גלותא אמר ליה לא מקבלי מינאי אמר ליה אף על גב דלא מקבלי לוכחינהו מר.

The Gemara relates: Rav Yehuda was sitting before Shmuel when this woman came and cried before Shmuel about an injustice that had been committed against her, and Shmuel paid no attention to her. Rav Yehuda said to Shmuel: Doesn’t the Master hold in accordance with the verse: “Whoever stops his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard” (Proverbs 21:13)? He said to him: Big-toothed one, your superior, i.e., I, your teacher, will be punished in cold water. The superior of your superior will be punished in hot water. Mar Ukva, who sits as president of the court, is responsible for those matters...Rabbi Zeira said to Rabbi Simon: Let the Master reprimand the members of the house of the Exilarch, as Rabbi Simon had some influence over them. Rabbi Simon said to him: They will not accept reprimand from me. Rabbi Zeira said to him: Let my master reprimand them even if they do not accept it.

II. The Company We Keep

(ז) מִדְּבַר־שֶׁ֖קֶר תִּרְחָ֑ק וְנָקִ֤י וְצַדִּיק֙ אַֽל־תַּהֲרֹ֔ג כִּ֥י לֹא־אַצְדִּ֖יק רָשָֽׁע׃
(7) Keep far from a false charge; do not bring death on those who are innocent and in the right, for I will not acquit the wrongdoer.

והוא מה שבאה עליו האזהרה (שמות כג:ז): מדבר שקר תרחק. ותראה שלא אמר משקר תשמר, אלא מדבר שקר תרחק, להעיר אותנו על ההרחק הגדול והבריחה הרבה שצריך לברוח מזה.

This is also what the Torah commands us: "keep far from a false matter" (Exodus 23:7). Notice that the verse did not say "guard against falsehood" but rather "keep far from a falsehood", to rouse us to the great extent one must distance and flee far away from falsehood.

The Messilat Yesharim ("Path of the Just") was written by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (Italy, Israel 1707-1746)

Yehuda Kurtzer, "On Friends and Farrakhan" (Times of Israel, July 2018)

Sometimes the company you keep may mean you have bad judgment in friends; on occasion, a failure to distance yourself may risk compromising your moral authority. But proximity alone does not make you into something you are not.

דֶרֶךְ בְּרִיָּתוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם לִהְיוֹת נִמְשָׁךְ בְּדֵעוֹתָיו וּבְמַעֲשָׂיו אַחַר רֵעָיו וַחֲבֵרָיו וְנוֹהֵג כְּמִנְהַג אַנְשֵׁי מְדִינָתוֹ. לְפִיכָךְ צָרִיךְ אָדָם לִהִתִחַבֵּר לַצַּדִּיקִים וִלֵישֵׁב אֵצֵל הַחֲכָמִים תָּמִיד כִּדֵי שֵׁיִּלִמֹד מִמַּעֲשֵׂיהֵם. וִיִתִרַחֵק מִן הָרִשָׁעִים הַהוֹלְכִים בַּחשֶׁךְ כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִלְמֹד מִמַּעֲשֵׂיהֶם. הוּא שֶׁשְּׁלֹמֹה אוֹמֵר (משלי יג כ) "הוֹלֵךְ אֶת חֲכָמִים יֶחְכָּם וְרֹעֶה כְסִילִים יֵרוֹעַ". וְאוֹמֵר אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ וְגוֹ' (תהילים א א). וְכֵן אִם הָיָה בִּמְדִינָה שֶׁמִּנְהֲגוֹתֶיהָ רָעִים וְאֵין אֲנָשֶׁיהָ הוֹלְכִים בְּדֶרֶךְ יְשָׁרָה יֵלֵךְ לְמָקוֹם שֶׁאֲנָשֶׁיהָ צַדִּיקִים וְנוֹהֲגִים בְּדֶרֶךְ טוֹבִים...

It is a natural tendency of humans to be influenced in their ideas and conduct by their fellows and associates, and to follow the usage of the people of the state. Therefore, it is necessary for one to be in the company of the righteous, and to sit near the wise, in order to learn from their conduct, and to distance themselves from the evil-doers who follow the path of darkness, in order not to learn from their conduct; for of such Solomon said: "He that walks with wise men shall be wise; but the companion of fools shall smart for it" (Proverbs 13:20); and it is also said: "Happy is the man that has not walked in the counsel of the wicked etc. (Psalm 1:1). Likewise, if one is in a state where evil customs prevail and where the people are not following the righteous ways, one should go to a place where the inhabitants are righteous and follow the way of the good...

דַּע, כִּי צָרִיךְ לָדוּן אֶת כָּל אָדָם לְכַף זְכוּת, וַאֲפִלּוּ מִי שֶׁהוּא רָשָׁע גָּמוּר, צָרִיךְ לְחַפֵּשׂ וְלִמְצֹא בּוֹ אֵיזֶה מְעַט טוֹב, שֶׁבְּאוֹתוֹ הַמְּעַט אֵינוֹ רָשָׁע, וְעַל יְדֵי זֶה שֶׁמּוֹצֵא בּוֹ מְעַט טוֹב, וְדָן אוֹתוֹ לְכַף זְכוּת, עַל־יְדֵי־זֶה מַעֲלֶה אוֹתוֹ בֶּאֱמֶת לְכַף זְכוּת, וְיוּכַל לַהֲשִׁיבוֹ בִּתְשׁוּבָה. וְזֶה בְּחִינַת (תהלים לז): וְעוֹד מְעַט וְאֵין רָשָׁע וְהִתְבּוֹנַנְתָּ עַל מְקוֹמוֹ וְאֵינֶנּוּ; הַיְנוּ שֶׁהַפָּסוּק מַזְהִיר לָדוּן אֶת הַכֹּל לְכַף זְכוּת, וְאַף־עַל־פִּי שֶׁאַתָּה רוֹאֶה שֶׁהוּא רָשָׁע גָּמוּר, אַף־עַל־פִּי־כֵן צָרִיךְ אַתָּה לְחַפֵּשׂ וּלְבַקֵּשׁ לִמְצֹא בּוֹ מְעַט טוֹב, שֶׁשָּׁם אֵינוֹ רָשָׁע. וְזֶהוּ: וְעוֹד מְעַט וְאֵין רָשָׁע – שֶׁצָּרִיךְ אַתָּה לְבַקֵּשׁ בּוֹ עוֹד מְעַט טוֹב, שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ עֲדַיִן, שֶׁשָּׁם אֵינוֹ רָשָׁע, כִּי אַף־עַל־פִּי שֶׁהוּא רָשָׁע, אֵיךְ אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ מְעַט טוֹב עֲדַיִן, כִּי אֵיךְ אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁלֹּא עָשָׂה אֵיזֶה מִצְוָה אוֹ דָּבָר טוֹב מִיָּמָיו?

Know, that it is necessary to judge every person as meritorious. Even if someone is entirely wicked, it is necessary to search and find in him some bit of good, that in that bit he is not wicked, and by means of this, that you find in him a bit of good, and judge him as meritorious, by means of this you raise him in truth to the side of merit, and you can return him in repentance. This is "a little bit and there is no wicked, you will contemplate on his place and he isn't there" (Psalms 37:10), that is, the verse warns to judge everyone as meritorious, and even though you see the he is completely wicked, even so, you must search and quest to find in him a bit of good where he isn't wicked. This is "a little bit and there is no wicked" - you have to search out in him a bit of good that is still there, where he is not wicked, because even though he is wicked, how is it possible that there isn't still a bit of good, because how is possible that he didn't do a mitzvah or a good thing his whole life?

III. The Women's March

Linda Sarsour, The Women’s March, and Anti-Semitism, Rabbi Arthur Waskow (Tikkun, November 2018)

R' Arthur Waskow’s Response to Linda Sarsour’s Letter-

I am deeply moved by this letter. I hear it as a profound statement of what we might call an “ecological” view of the movement to oppose Trump and to renew and remake American democracy — seeing it as a cultural/ political eco-system. In a biological eco-system, it is crucial that the different species are in fact different. And it is also crucial to see that their differences in fact are what make possible the system as a unified whole.

Ms. Sarsour is calling for not just an conventional “coalition” of organizations to accomplish a single limited goal (e.g., “End the Vietnam War”) but a more organically linked multi-issue movement in which it is both inevitable that there be differences among the constituencies, and crucial that the constituencies sense that those differences themselves contribute to a broader unity.

To use religious language that converges with the ecological sciences: In our very diversity, our different cultures, our disagreements, we are the rainbow refractions of ONE light. The Quran teaches that humanity was created in many different cultures precisely so that we can learn to understand each other. Jews affirm in the Sh’ma that the Divine Interbreath of Life is ONE. The Torah’s call that we pursue “justice, justice” – in its different voices — is ONE. The love we owe each other is ONE.

Jonah S. Boyarin, "Jewish Fear, Love, & Solidarity in the Wake of Charlottesville" (JewSchool August 2017)

Jewish fear is we are still alone.
Jewish fear is the recurring silence from non-Jews about the explicitly, particularly antisemitic language and behavior of the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. It is seeing, with rare exceptions, only Jewish friends of mine posting on social media when Jewish cemeteries are vandalized or when the Boston Holocaust memorial was destroyed this week for the second time this summer.
Jewish fear is if we bring up our struggle to non-Jewish comrades, we will be gaslighted and shamed into silence, because structural antisemitism functions by portraying us as conspiratorially, greedily powerful despite our repeated vulnerability to structural, white Christian male violence.

Eric K. Ward, "Skin in the Game: How Anti-Semitism Animates White Nationalism" (Political Research, June 2017)

What I learned when I got to Oregon, as I began to log untold hours trying to understand White nationalists and their ideas, was that antisemitism was the lynchpin of the White nationalist belief system. That within this ideological matrix, Jews—despite and indeed because of the fact that they often read as White—are a different, unassimilable, enemy race that must be exposed, defeated, and ultimately eliminated. Antisemitism, I discovered, is a particular and potent form of racism so central to White supremacy that Black people would not win our freedom without tearing it down.

IV. On Shabbat?

שַׁבָּת הִיא מִלִזְּעוק וּרְפוּאָה קְרֹובָה לָבֹוא

Shabbat is [to refrain] from screaming, and healing will surely come soon.

(ז) עַל אֵלּוּ מַתְרִיעִין בְּשַׁבָּת, עַל עִיר שֶׁהִקִּיפוּהָ גוֹיִם אוֹ נָהָר, וְעַל הַסְּפִינָה הַמִּטָּרֶפֶת בַּיָּם. רַבִּי יוֹסֵי אוֹמֵר, לְעֶזְרָה וְלֹא לִצְעָקָה. שִׁמְעוֹן הַתִּמְנִי אוֹמֵר, אַף עַל הַדֶּבֶר, וְלֹא הוֹדוּ לוֹ חֲכָמִים:

(7) For the following calamities an alarm is to be sounded even on the Sabbath:—For a city surrounded by enemies; for a flood threatening to inundate the country; for a ship in imminent danger of being wrecked at sea [in a storm]. R. José says, This sounding is to be, to obtain assistance [from men], not as an imploring cry [to God]." Simeon the Temanite says, "They shall also sound on the Sabbath in case of pestilence;" but the sages did not agree with him [in this].

דתניא על אלו מתריעין בשבת על עיר שהקיפוה גייס או נהר ועל ספינה המטורפת בים ר' יוסי אמר לעזרה אבל לא לצעקה במאי אילימא בשופרות שופרות בשבת מי שרי אלא לאו בעננו וקרי לה התרעה ש"מ:

This is a dispute between tanna’im, as we learned in a mishna: For the following calamities they sound the alarm even on Shabbat: For a city that is surrounded by an enemy army or in danger of being flooded by a river, or for a ship tossed about at sea. Rabbi Yosei said: An alarm may be sounded on Shabbat to summon help, but it may not be sounded for crying out to God. The Gemara clarifies this case. With what do they sound the alarm? If we say with shofarot, is the sounding of shofarot permitted on Shabbat? Even when Rosh HaShana occurs on Shabbat, one must refrain from sounding the shofar on that day. Rather, is it not the case that this is referring to the recitation of the Aneinu prayer, and yet the mishna calls this recitation: Sounding the alarm. Conclude from this that there is a tanna who maintains that sounding of the alarm is in fact performed by prayer, as claimed by Rav Yehuda, son of Rav Shmuel bar Sheilat.

מותר להכריז בשבת על אבידה אפילו היא דבר שאסור לטלטלו: הגה ומותר להתיר חרמי צבור בשבת אע"פ שאינו לצורך שבת הואיל והוא יום כנופיא לרבים הוי כעסקי רבים דשרי לדבר בם...

It is permissible to announce a lost object on Shabbat, even if it is an object that cannot be carried [on Shabbat]. Gloss: And it is permissible to undo public excommunications on Shabbat, even if it is not for the purposes of Shabbat, since it is a day of great, public gathering, it is a public matter that can be spoken of...

וכן מותר לפקח על עסקי רבים בשבת, דאין לך חפצי שמים גדול מזה, אף כשהענינים המה בדבר הרשות, כמו בעסקי פרנסות והשגות גבולים וכדומה, דכל צרכי רבים מצוה רבה היא.

And it is similarly permitted to oversee public matters on Shabbat, because there is no holier business than this, even when the matters are merely optional, such as commerce and the setting of boundaries, for all matters of public interest are a great mitzvah.