Why do we Tolerate Injustice?

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In the Torah portion for this week, Vaera, God says to Moses “I am the Lord. I will free you from the labors (sivlot) of the Egyptians; and deliver you from their bondage.” (Ex 6:6).

Some commentators point out that the word sivlot, labors, can be related to the word savlanut, tolerance. In other words, the true horror of Israelite slavery is that they grew accustomed to the injustices perpetrated upon them.

I often sense that that we live in a time when devotion to social justice and equality in society is on the wane. The enthusiasm and idealism of the 60’s 70’s and 80’s has given way to an increasing acceptance that certain things just cannot change. I think this is due to a complex combination of factors. Many problems are far more complicated than we imagined. So much effort and energy has gone into creating a more just and equitable society, and still we are plagued by social problems. The economic downturn has forced us to turn inwards, to put our energies into providing for ourselves and our families, leaving less time for others. Finally, so many are just plain tired-worn down by the efforts expended just to “make it” day to day.

The Torah teaches that the true cost of injustice is tolerance for it-namely, that we can become so accustomed to the way things are that we cease to dream of the way things might be. Despite the challenges, the call remains to us to do what is just and right and fair for our society and for those around us.


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