14 Elul 5772 / Aug 31 – Sep 1, 2012
In this week’s portion, Ki Tetzeh, Moses offers continued guidance on how to wipe out evil from the nation. Aside from controversial passages regarding stoning rebellious children and what happens in situations of rape, we are taught the following:
“If you see your fellow’s ox or sheep gone astray, do not ignore it; you must take it back to your fellow… you must not remain indifferent.”
You must not remain indifferent.
We learn this week that not only do we have an obligation as Jews to take care of others, but their property as well. Simply put, we are obligated to act.
This past week at Michigan State University, a young man allegedly was the victim of a hate crime due to being Jewish. He says that he was knocked unconscious at a house party, had his jaw broken and his mouth forcibly stapled shut by two men who made a Hitler salute and claimed KKK affiliation before doing so, and who only acted after he shared that he was Jewish. You can find the Detroit Free Press article here.
There are bigots everywhere in this world. People will always find ways to be divisive and to hate those whom they perceive as different. But it’s not the bigots that have me frustrated this week. Rather, according to the young man’s report, there were at least 20 people on hand who witnessed this incident, and who stood there, doing nothing to help. They were indifferent. They did not think it appropriate to speak out, to physically intervene, or even to call the police. This, to me, is the true tragedy. And this, to me, is where we need to be the light.
Whether this particular incident took place the way the victim described it or not, the lesson remains, and the charge is the same –
Do not stand idly by.
Speak out against injustice.
Do not be indifferent.
Be the light.