D’var Torah: We have a duty to act for justice in the world


Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham

Turbulent times demand that we take action.

Parashat Tzav follows Purim by one day, both of which “demand action.”

In the Megillah, Haman reveals his diabolical plan to exterminate the Jews of Persia, and Mordechai instructs Esther to immediately visit the king and beseech him to rescind the wicked decree. 

Esther demurs and Mordechai reacts forcefully and tells her, “Do not imagine that you will be able to escape in the King’s palace any more than the rest of the Jews.” (Esther 4:13)  


Commentators have pondered: Why is Mordechai so forceful?  Why not wait for Esther to be summoned and then beg for the Jew’s salvation? A medieval commentator, Rabbi Meir Leibush, known as the Malbim (1809-1879), explained that “every affliction that comes upon Israel has a limited period, time and ‘Day of Judgment’ designated for deliverance through the preparations and causes that were prepared for salvation.”  

In other words, history offers us a window of opportunity, but only a brief one. We must seize that ephemeral window of opportunity when it opens.

Parashat Tzav begins with the instruction that Moses “command Aaron and his sons” (6:2) about the laws of the sacrifices in the Tabernacle. Why the need to command? Why not tell Aaron, or speak to him?

Rashi explains that the term “command” denotes alacrity, urgency and speed. In other words, as Aaron takes a position of importance, leadership and power, he must always be ready and willing to act with speed and urgency on their behalf. 

Commenting on the qualities of good leaders, Rabbi Moses ben Nachman, known as the Ramban, writes (on Exodus 18:21), “One who is appointed (as a leader) of the community must open his heart to communal matters with all of his heart and spirit … and he must be a person of alacrity, and quick in his service of heaven — that he is not silent nor does he rest until that matter is completed.”

Regardless of your politics, it is imperative that we find ways to unite during this time of unrest while our antagonists try to divide. We can stand together and unite to find a way to make our world more secure, particularly with what we are seeing in Ukraine, in addition to both in America and in Israel. 

There will continue to be disagreements among us and in our society.We have many people in our midst who stand on opposite sides politically. Everyone has a right to support whomever they want. 

Judaism, however, teaches us “machlochet l’shem shamayim,” all disagreements should be for heaven’s sake. We must be respectful of one another and work together. This is what Esther and Mordechai taught us in the Purim story and what Moses and Aaron teach us in our parsha this week.  

We must continue to stand with our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and stand for what is right and just in our world.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham serves Congregation B’nai Amoona and is a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical and Cantorial Association, which coordinates the d’var Torah for the Jewish Light.