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D'Var Torah

April 8, 2016

This past Tuesday evening, I attended a lecture by Marc Gopin, Director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution, and a professor of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. A graduate of Yeshiva University and Brandeis, Dr. Gopin has been active in conflict and peace interventions throughout the world, and in the past 15 years, in particular, throughout the Middle East.  During his talk, Dr. Gopin examined how the inability to respect and understand the "other" is the key barrier to the achievement of peace and justice.  He highlighted the Torah's most frequently repeated commandment, to accept the stranger, because we were once strangers in the land of Egypt (so core to the teachings of our upcoming Seders), as reflective of the Jewish perspective on justice.
At times in Torah, the directive to accept and include the "other" is revealed in the broader text.  This week's parashah, Tazri-a, is an example of this.  There is extensive discussion of how one can be cleansed after the emission of various bodily fluids.  Are these commandments for the purpose of health concerns?  Perhaps on the surface, but, more importantly, they provide instructions on how to include even those once tainted into our larger society in as effective and expeditious a manner as possible.
Dr. Gopin's talk was sponsored by the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies, for its series on "Imagining Justice in Baltimore".  Our city has been challenged by societal inequalities for a long time, much of which have risen to the surface in the past year.  As we learned from Dr. Gopin, if we are to find peace and justice, we must start by recognizing and working to understand the "other," and, then maybe we can include all in our larger community.  A Torah lesson for us all.
Have a peaceful Shabbat. 

Lee I. Sherman