The Torah of #MeToo - Inclusivity

How can the Jewish community honor and amplify the inclusivity that was part of the #MeToo movement from its inception?

The Biblical and rabbinic authors recognized the phenomenon of structural inequity, in which broad social systems affect different groups in disparate ways. The sources gathered below bring together classical teachings that address the problem of structural inequity. How would you apply them to problems of racial and economic inequities today?

What does it look like to put a commitment to inclusivity into practice at the communal, institutional and individual level?

(יז) לֹ֣א תַטֶּ֔ה מִשְׁפַּ֖ט גֵּ֣ר יָת֑וֹם וְלֹ֣א תַחֲבֹ֔ל בֶּ֖גֶד אַלְמָנָֽה׃ (יח) וְזָכַרְתָּ֗ כִּ֣י עֶ֤בֶד הָיִ֙יתָ֙ בְּמִצְרַ֔יִם וַֽיִּפְדְּךָ֛ יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ מִשָּׁ֑ם עַל־כֵּ֞ן אָנֹכִ֤י מְצַוְּךָ֙ לַעֲשׂ֔וֹת אֶת־הַדָּבָ֖ר הַזֶּֽה׃ (ס)

(17) You shall not subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pawn. (18) Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and that the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment.

1. This passage extends special protection to three kinds of people: the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. What do you think made these groups vulnerable to mistreatment in antiquity? To what degree are these groups vulnerable in today's society? In contemporary life, who occupies positions that are equivalent to Deuteronomy's stranger, fatherless, and widow? In what way?

2. Why do you think this passage links the commandment to protect the stranger, fatherless, and widow with a remembrance of slavery in Egypt? In your experience, how does the story of the Exodus shape Jewish values, actions, and decision-making?

(א) לא תטה משפט גר יתום. וְעַל הֶעָשִׁיר כְּבָר הֻזְהַר (דברים ט"ז) "לֹא תַטֶּה מִשְׁפָּט", וְשָׁנָה בֶעָנִי לַעֲבֹר עָלָיו בִּשְׁנֵי לָאוין, לְפִי שֶׁנָּקֵל לְהַטּוֹת מִשְׁפַּט עָנִי יוֹתֵר מִשֶּׁל עָשִׁיר, לְכָךְ הִזְהִיר וְשָׁנָה עָלָיו (ספרי):

(1) לא תטה משפט גר יתום You shall not subvert the rights of the stranger or the fatherless — and with regard to the well-to-do one has already been forbidden to do so (Deuteronomy 16:19): “Thou shalt not subvert judgment”, (which is a general prohibition including both poor and rich), but it (Scripture) repeats it regarding the poor in order to make one who subverts the judgment of the poor transgress two negative commands. Because it is easier to subvert the judgment of the defenseless poor than that of the rich, therefore Scripture lays down a prohibition regarding him a second time (Sifrei Devarim 281:1).

Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, 1040-1105) draws on an ancient rabbinic teaching to address why the biblical passage above is included in the Torah.

1. What is the implicit question that Rashi wants to address?

2. How does he answer it?

3. What does this commentary suggest about how one addresses structural inequity?

4. What are some particular decisions that are in your power to make that could help reverse the structural inequities?