Rabbi Denise Handlarski
We are living in a tenuous time. Now, more than ever, we need our Jewish community to lean on and to work for social betterment. The Torah has something to teach us about this.
Seeing the leadership of his people, Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, is impressed, but he also cautions Moses that “the thing you are doing is not right; you will surely wear yourself out, and these people as well. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.” Many of us see ourselves as part of a liberation struggle. Whether it is an opposition to xenophobia, Islamophobia and racism, a desire to see action on climate change, deep concern for human rights for women and the LGBTQ community, the continuing shameful treatment of indigenous Canadians, we see that there is indeed much work to do. And sometimes the task seems too heavy.
Moses was a leader, and we need strong leaders now, but he could not do his work alone, and neither can our leaders today. None of us can do it all, and nor should we. Whether it’s elected leaders, religious or cultural leaders, or leaders of social movements, leadership is nothing without broad-based, holistic, democratic and participatory engagement. Moreover, we all win when we work together to create change, to bring forth liberation. The act of working together is part of the liberation itself.
I have been heartened to see Jewish communities everywhere standing up against injustice. Across the whole Jewish spectrum, we are united in our desire for justice and peace for all people. I am heartened by the caring and concern I’ve witnessed in my own congregation, and between congregations and movements. We cannot do this work alone. We need each other. I’m with you.
Rabbi Denise Handlarski is spiritual leader of Oraynu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Toronto.