This week marks the beginning of the Jewish month of Elul, the month in which we prepare for the High Holidays. It is a time of introspection and repentance. To prepare for these approaching Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe), we are instructed to look inward and reflect on the year that is ending. We are asked to review our actions and think about what we could or should have done differently so that we can repent for our mistakes and set our intentions to be better in the coming new year.
As our community begins its preparations for the High Holidays, I have begun my own introspection about the past year. One phrase from this week’s Torah portion (Re’eh) framed my most recent reflections:
“Justice, justice you shall pursue…” (Deuteronomy 16:20)
We are commanded to pursue justice, but this is not a simple task. It is not always easy to do the right thing. Sometimes justice for some is not popular or appears to cause trouble in the eyes of others. Sometimes working towards justice makes our lives more difficult than they would have been otherwise. In our world today, there are so many special circumstances and exceptions to the rules that it can be difficult to know what is the just and right thing to do. Despite the challenges, we are instructed to pursue justice, knowing that the one true judge will see the truth in our actions and our intentions.
This weekend, while watching my children play together outside, I was struck by the ripples our actions create. They were working together, cooperatively, without adult interference. I was struck by their ability to work so well as a team to accomplish something they could not do individually. They didn’t blame each other when something went wrong. Instead, in this special moment, they assumed the best intentions of their sibling and they worked to compensate for their sibling’s mistakes; together they achieved balance and accomplished more than if they had worked individually.
I continued to reflect on this moment after my children were sound asleep: What can we accomplish if we work together? To pursue justice, we must work together. We must think about justice and make our own small contributions to pursuing that goal. If we do so as individuals, our communal efforts will result in something we could never achieve alone. The Lerner School was built by a group of families who came together to build something that they could not build as individuals, and each of us are among the many whom have been positively impacted by this school and its community.
As I look back on the past year and forward to the coming year, I am focusing on how I can pursue justice in our community, both our Jewish community and the secular community. I may not be able to do it alone, but I will contribute to our community effort.
Head of School