Those blessed with the gift of higher education and the power that comes with knowledge must play a more significant role in the creation of a more just society. Passivity in the face of immorality and injustice has played a terrible and significant factor in the descent and impotence of man. As the philosopher Richard Rorty concluded:
The Foucauldian academic left in contemporary America is exactly the sort of left that the oligarchy dreams of, a left whose members are so busy unmasking the present that they have no times to discuss what laws need to be passed in order to create a better future.
Let us reject the academic Ivory Tower and use our knowledge to perfect G-d’s creation as we seek out Or Mashiach. The power that comes with light can cause one to misunderstand and misperceive his or her own greatness. From Berakhot 7a:
It has been taught: “God is angered every day.” (Psalms 7:12) … [And when is He angry?] A baraita was taught in the name of R’ Meir, “When the sun shines [in the morning] and all the kings of the East and West place their crowns on their heads and bow to the sun, HaKadosh Baruch Hu immediately becomes angry. “
We all have unique gifts to share that are made all the more powerful when we are illuminated with the Divine light. However, the prerequisite for being shone on with Divine light is the understanding of the source of our energy and success; and to achieve this understanding requires that we strive with all our might to learn, and that this endeavor is made with the humility it so requires.
Let us take to heart the understanding that we were endowed with Or Bereishit, blessed with Or Sinai, and that now it is our duty to seek Or Mashiach through the spiritual and actual cultivation of the light that is within us all. Judaism is unique in its situational balance between the past and future, leading many among us to seek the comfort of the past and resist the responsibility that comes with being a modern people. We must not act in such a fashion. Me must embrace our identity as a people blessed with incredible tradition, and utilize the knowledge, spiritual revelation, and ethical obligations that come from our past to make the world we inhabit presently a more holy and just place not only for ourselves but for all forms of life. This is our duty – this is how we seek Or Mashiach.
About the Author: Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz is the executive director of the Valley Beit Midrash, the founder & president of Uri L’Tzedek, the founder and CEO of The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute and the author of books on Jewish ethics, most recently “The Soul of Jewish Social Justices.” Newsweek named Rav Shmuly one of the top 50 rabbis in America.”
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