Pillars of Community: Judiciary Justice and Economic Democracy

From a class I taught in DC, in 2012.  (pdf DCBM20AugustReehClass here…)
Read, Write, Dream, Teach !   ShiraDest, 8 March, 12016 HE

Shira Jones, DC Beit Midrash, DC JCC, 20 August 2012, Parashat Shoftim
Community is built pillar by pillar, and one of those pillars, as we see this week in this
week´s Parashah, Parashat Shoftim, is having a judiciary system which is fair and
impartial, handing down rules which are applied equally under law, yet expansive enough
to make exemptions when necessary (for instance, in the 6th aliyah, where newlyweds,
conscientious objectors and other young men are excused from going to war).
▪ Na’aseh ve Nishmah: {Laws = formal rules; Minhagim = informal
norms} Shoftim
▪ Rewards and consequences of unity and cooperation vs. separation from
the community: {holding the mountain over our heads} Shavuot
▪ Consensus based buy in from all of the people: {Every Jewish Neshamah
was there}
▪ Intergenerational endurance: {“Na’aseh ve Nishmah”} Parashat Re´eh
Some sources of each of the four pillars where discussed in last year´s Shavuot class,
notes for which are available upon request. We will focus today on the 4th pillar, from
Parashat Re´eh, that of Intergenerational endurance.
One major prerequisite for building lasting community is solving the problem of
short-term insolvency, and also preventing long-term building up of, as the Etz Haim
commentary on this parashah puts it, “a permanent underclass” of impoverished members
of the community. The Biblical mechanism for this is a regular Remission of Debt,
which is commanded Dvarim ch. 15.
Every seven years loans are forgiven
Loans, we learned earlier in Bahar, Lev. 25, must be made interest free to fellow Jews
An interesting repetition in Devarim 15:8 -openly open your hand to him
Why the redundancy? There are two sides to giving a loan
1. Short term financial help
2. long term community responsibility to
a. help the person make a sustainable living
b. create equitable structures that prevent neediness
Loan forgiveness and lending are short term solutions
Structural equity is the long term solution
Time Banking is one example of part of that long term solution
1. interest free, egalitarian equitable structure
2. interconnect various communities
3. since a person can donate time adn withdraw that time later, it gives along term
incentive for each person to contribute to the community and have that time valued and
recognized by the community.
4. over time this strengthens individuals and communities
Thus lending is short term, while Time Banks is part of Teachng a man to fish and
feeding him for a lifetime.
Community and the building of community solidly at the center of Jewish practice.
Chodesh Tov L´Elul, and Gamar Chatima Tova,
Shira Destinie Jones, Mphil, DC “Community Cooperation” Singing Tour Guide


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