ISSL Reflections January 16 2022 Exodus 23:1–12 Post 3

How do these commands call us to act toward our world?

Exodus 23:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version)

You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit.

When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back.

When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free.

You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.

You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed.

Let’s notice two things –

“… you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice …” (v 2).

“You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens…” (v 9).

We could say these words serve as a guide to how a “just” world can be created.

Is a “just” world created and maintained by knowing and following a set of commands and laws?

In part, I suspect it is.

But by calling attention to the “heart” of the matter – “… you know the heart of an alien …” – I can’t help but think the Torah is not only a call to follow a set of commands but Torah and all acts of justice must have their source in our hearts, in the core of our being.

Go one step more – it seems implicit to me this is a call not only to notice and acknowledge the empathy we have for others but to affirm that by our “God-given” nature we are created and structured to be empathetic.

Is that too much to hope for? Too much to believe?

I recall Rabbi Jesus saying something about doing to and for others as you want them to do and for you.

Where does justice begin?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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