Live and let live.
To each his own.
We hear these expressions over and over and we accept them as truth. In our current culture, we have a hard time engaging with differences – and often we try not to stir the pot by challenging others. So, we live and let live, and in the interest of being “politically correct,” we do not always say what is on our minds. I understand that need, and on some level I agree. However, on another level, I do not. Allow me to explain.
As we reach our High Holy Days, there is an authentic Jewish approach we can take when we see behavior that we believe to be unethical or incorrect. Our Torah teaches that we are not allowed to turn a blind eye to the world around us. We must be active in acts of kindness to strengthen our society and our community. For us to turn away, and not get involved when we see something that doesn’t quite sit right with us, is to shirk our responsibilities to our city, our community and our world. In the eyes of Jewish Law, a righteous individual is not one who is secluded, it is one who successfully navigates and faces the complicated nuances of the world around them. It is our moral obligation to judge – not just others, but ourselves as well.
One of the qualities that sets us apart from all other creations is the ability to discern. We are capable of choosing to make value-based decisions and judgments. We are capable of choosing not to turn away and not to live and let live. If we chose to be like other creations and not use our G-d-given abilities to make value-based decisions and judgments, then we are not shaped in the image of G-d. To be human is to be discerning.
As we near the High Holy Days, my bracha for us all is to manifest the verse:
ה’ שֹׁמְרֶךָ ה’ צִלְּךָ עַל־יַד יְמִינֶךָ
“Hashem your Guardian; G-d is your shadow; G-d is by your right hand.” (Tehillim/Psalms 121:5)
May we all merit to live our lives mimicking G-d’s shadow, judging each other with merit, being discerning and holding each other lovingly to a higher standard.
This is our purpose.
This is our calling.
L’shana tova to you and your families.