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Parshas Mishpatim - DEI & Speaking Out Against Complicity      30 Shvat 5784

02/09/2024 08:56:33 AM


This Dvar Torah is in honor of the Jewish men and women who are fighting on the front lines defending Eretz Yisroel, and who are in the work force throughout the U.S. fighting Anti-Semitism throughout corporate America!

We are all enlisted in the Tzivaos Hashem, the legions or the army of God. Just as every army has different divisions and roles, so, too, we, the Jewish people, occupy different positions, all of which defend the Jewish people and the honor of Hashem. The arenas of fighting are, unfortunately, ongoing in Gaza and growing along the northern Lebanese border, but arenas of deep challenge are also growing in the workplace, in schools, in prestigious institutions of higher learning, and even in local neighborhoods throughout the U.S., North and South America, Europe, as far into the Pacific as Australia. Throughout the world we are encountering increasing occurrences of open viperous hatred against Israel and the Jewish people. While these events present a different kind of challenge, one that is not, at least openly, risking physical life, these openly antisemitic attacks cause major impacts upon us, our families and our communities. Perhaps the most difficult challenge in the workplace is when it comes to disguise. -The growing anti-Zionist protests against Israel, while deeply concerning, are, in actuality, a true form of antisemitism.

One of the most recent ‘isms’ to seep into society and the “office” is ‘DEI’ – diversity, ethnicity, inclusion – ostensibly referring to fair treatment and inclusion of all people. DEI policy emerged from Affirmative Action in the United States. The legal term "affirmative action" was first used in “Executive Order 10925” signed by President John F. Kennedy on 6 March 1961. Its intention was to promote actions that achieve non-discrimination. Fast forward 50+ years, DEI has been accused of ignoring or even contributing to antisemitism. According to Andria Spindel, of the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation, antisemitism has been largely ignored in the DEI curriculum. The relationship between DEI and campus antisemitism came under further scrutiny after the 2023 Hamas attack on Israel, and the subsequent war in Gaza.

Some members of our own community have been denied promotions, warned about speaking out in favor of Israel, criticized for trying to explain the evil perpetrated by Hamas or simply for trying to express shock and horror regarding the ruthless attacks of October 7th. We are all witness to open efforts to silence our growing concerns while being simultaneously attacked by ongoing propaganda from certain “groups” throughout society. Hamaivin yavin – the one who understands will understand!

Tabia Lee, a former DEI director at De Anza College in California, has claimed that DEI frameworks foster antisemitism due to its "oppressors and the oppressed" dichotomy where "Jews are categorically placed in the oppressor category", described as "white oppressors". She has claimed that her attempts to include Jews under the "DEI" umbrella was resisted. When her critics asked the college trustees to oust her from her role, one counselor explicitly referenced her attempts to place Jewish students "on the same footing as marginalized groups". The Brandeis Center likewise notes how the DEI committee at Stanford University alleged that "Jews, unlike other minority group[s], possess privilege and power, Jews and victims of Jew-hatred do not merit or necessitate the attention of the DEI committee". This public declaration was made after two students complained about antisemitic incidents on campus.

Truth is truth and falsehood is falsehood! The Torah in this week’s parshas Mishpatim states in Shmos 23:7 "מדבר שקר תרחק" : “Keep away from anything false.” When we hear calls for the destruction of Israel disguised -  in the many different forms - we need to speak up. When it is disguised in the workplace, the sheker- the lies- must not be met with complacency; rather, we should speak out. The degree of truth, the smallest indications between truth and falsehood, must be observed and revealed. The following is a deep yet simple appreciation of how far a Jew must go not to misrepresent something, even a minor flinch.     

In the sefer Chasidim by Reb Yehuda HeChasid ben Rabbeinu Shmuel HeChasid in #1058 writes that even a person hinting in such a small way such as shaking his head  or moving to the left or to the right must be done with truth. This is based upon a passuk in Vayikra 19:36 where the Torah states "והין צדק יהיה לכם literally meaning ‘an honest liquid measure’ but metaphorically the Hebrew word ‘Hin’ is the word yes. Even your Yes’s must be righteous. Reb Yehuda goes on and asks rhetorically, “...from where do we know that even a wink or something like a wink must be with righteousness?” He brings support from Mishlei 6:12-13 “An irreligious person, a man of iniquity, walks with a perverse mouth, winking with his eyes, scraping with his feet, pointing with his fingers.”  In Yeshayahu 58:9 the Navi says, ”Remove the perversion of finger pointing and evil speech”. When a person wants to say yes, he shakes his head up and down; when he wants to say no, he moves his head from left to right. All of his limbs need to be truthful.   

Rav Yeshayahu ben Chaim Attia z”l in his responsa Bigdei Yesha Even HaEzer #32, published in 1853, quotes a Teshuva/ responsa from Rebbi Akiva Eiger who was asked a question from the judges of Blustok in Poland. Initially, Rebbi Eiger hesitated whether to answer them, and in the end, he decided he would. In the opening of the responsa, Rebbi Akiva Eiger reveals why he hesitated and what made him change his mind. Prior to the question and answer, there is a back story as to why Rebbi Akiva Eiger was involved in this question. “I am not worthy of being asked these questions that were sent from such a great distance. Thank God the Jewish people are not widowed from having great Rabbis in their own towns, to whom I am inferior. In addition, I have many responsibilities to my local community, and I don’t really have time for outside inquiries. The only problem is that when I was in Bromburg for a family celebration, someone approached me and asked me to give an answer to this question. I was silent and did not respond, but maybe I moved my head in the positive as a promise. Therefore, I have no choice but to move out of my comfort zone and go through the effort of answering. Just a slight indication brought R’ Eiger to consider a false impression if he did not answer the question.

We the Jewish people through the lens of the Torah know that every form of communication must be discerning and carefully monitored. We are responsible for what we say and sometimes for what we do not say. The lessons of Emes are a pillar for our families, communities and for all Klal Yisroel.  Let us pay tribute to ALL who defend our people and the name of Hashem, and with truth bring the Achdus/unity that is necessary to bring the Geulah Shelima the complete redemption speedily in our days!

Ah Gutten Shabbos & Ah Gutten Chodesh

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


Sefer Chassidim, Book of the Pious is a text attributed to Yehudah ben Shmuel of Regensburg (died 1217) a foundation work of the teachings of the Chassidei Ashkenaz ("Pious Ones of Germany"). It offers an account of the day-to-day religious life of Jews in medieval Germany, and their customs, beliefs, and traditions. It presents the combined teachings of the three leaders of German Hasidism during the 12th and 13th centuries: Shmuel the Chassid, Yehuda the Chassid of Regensburg (his son), and Elazar Rokeach.

Fri, July 19 2024 13 Tammuz 5784