Friday, June 15, 2007

Hechsher Tzedek: Benefit For The World At Large

In his welcoming statement Rabbi Allen talked about how Hechsher Tzedek reminds the larger world around us that for Jews both the ethical and ritual commandments of Judaism are to be fulfilled. Where I work there are several non-Jews who are quite interested in Hechsher Tzedek; it seems to hold a certain appeal for the non-Jewish world as well so I want to push Rabbi's statement a little further. Hechsher Tzedek is also valuable to the world around us for reasons well beyond Judaism.

The face of religion in today's world is not a very pretty one. (Now don't get me wrong, there are many just causes being supported by religious people, being run by religious organizations, only they're mostly removed from people's everyday lives and thus given little thought.) Ask the average person to give their description of a religious person and I don't think it would be all that flattering. Stridency, fundamentalism, extremism, isolation from the world around them, uncaring except about their religion and their coreligionists, making sure their religion 'wins' at all costs, or the usual all encompassing 'hypocrisy'? Perhaps their description might be from the other side. Peace and love, no rules, everything goes as long as they feel good about themselves, just connect to a higher power and let hp take care of everything, unrealistic, sappy? A lot of people who do have some religious connections, feelings, etc., try to just keep this to themselves, like it's an embarrassment or something. One of my co-workers told me once that someone mentioned they could not figure me out. "She seems really religious but she's also just a lot like me." I don't know if I should be flattered or not... but the point is, people have the view of religious people that we are odd, don't fit in, can't relate, etc.

All of the sudden, into this world of polarization, along comes Hechsher Tzedek. Hechsher Tzedek where there are laws we follow, but it's not good enough that we just hold to the rituals of our religion. Hechsher Tzedek where we have to also make sure our rituals are combined with ethics; that people are treated in a way that is right and not pushed aside because they're not in some exclusive category of 'us'. Hechsher Tzedek where we are required to get to work repairing our world and not just leave things for either someone else or perhaps God to do for us.

Hechsher Tzedek brings beauty into a world where religion mostly isn't seen as anything beautiful anymore. Hechsher Tzedek brings that religious beauty right into the home, right onto the table; something we and the world around us need to see. Hechsher Tzedek challenges those who hold to beliefs which differ from ours to find ways to do the same in their worlds. Hechsher Tzedek is much needed in the Jewish world and the larger world around us. Torah was given in the wilderness so that no one could claim it as their exclusive property. Hechsher Tzedek brings Torah back to the people, all people. It's time.