...and we should do it"
The Ethics of Jewish Responsibility
Chief Rabbi, Professor Jonathan Sacks
Today we are witnessing a strange paradox. We are confronted daily by images of global disasters: terror, suicide bombers, damage to the environment, countries and continents affected by poverty and diseases, and natural disasters, tzunami, earthquakes. There is something natural - a basic instinct of empathy and sympathy - that makes us want to help when we see people suffering.
At the same time, often feels small and insignificant. What can we do to help? The impact can cause appears inadequate before the scale of these tragedies. There are six billion people today. What a difference an individual can do? We're just a wave in an ocean of humanity, dust on the surface of the infinite.
The story of the "ethics of responsibility" is a Jewish story for our time. Judaism began with Abraham, a single individual. And still the faith of one of the smallest peoples in the world. But Jews have always had an impact disproportionate to the numbers. Why?
The reason is the radical belief embedded in the heart of our faith, we can make a difference - and we should do it. G-d calls us to become His "partners in the work of Creation." The Judaism is not a faith that leads us to accept the world as it is. It is a faith that challenges us to make the world as it should be. It is a cry of protest against injustice and random cruelty of the world.
Some of the main ideas of Jewish ethics: tzedakah (social justice), chesed (acts of kindness), Darche Shalom (the ways of peace) Kiddush Hashem (sanctifying the Name of G-d), and the principle that; "all Jews are responsible for each other". We call Tikkun Olam - Repairing the World , we are called to mend the fractures in the world, one action at a time, one day at a time.
We tend to consider these ideas as something established as if they were self-evident, but are not. They are rooted in a singular vision of G-d, the universe and our place in it. Judaism maintains an extremely high dignity and importance of the individual - as opposed to the masses, the crowd, the nation, the empire. We do not believe that we are tainted by original sin, or that fate is entirely in the hands of Providence. G-d enables us, as a wise father trains his son to grow, develop and exercise responsibility. We are here to do a difference.
Torah really is, as it says in Deuteronomy, "his wisdom and understanding to the nations".
The ethics of responsibility is the key that gives access for fulfilling the life. In the end, what makes us feel fulfilled is not how much we earn, or what we have, but the feeling of having contributed something of value to the world. Simple things like engaging in acts of compassion and generosity, caring for the sick, comforting with the bereaved, offering hospitality to the lonely and helping those in need.
We hope that every act of kindness lights a candle of hope in a world often dark and dangerous.