“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” -Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, 1849
While the current pandemic has changed many things, much remains the same. Two years ago when we used the theme of “What would you walk for?” for our annual walk-a-thon, I wrote about being inspired by Bono at a U2 concert. While there haven’t been any concerts to attend, the themes from that show are frighteningly relevant today. Statements and images of both violence and hope were projected on a screen that stretched across the entire floor of the arena; there was video footage of torch-bearing white supremacists in Charlottesville and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s face flashed upon the screen delivering a speech.
Bono inspired the audience to take action. He said, “peace is not something to meditate on — peace is an action.” He insisted that we must work to fix the conflicts in our hearts, homes, and the world, every day. Bono’s words still resonate with me; the concepts he discussed are inherently rooted in Jewish ritual. There are only two mitzvot where we are instructed to actively go out and pursue (rodef). The first is to pursue justice (tzedek, tzedek, tirdof; Deut. 16:18), and the second is to pursue peace (rodef shalom; Pirke Avot, 1:12). Hoping for peace, freedom, equality and justice is not enough; we must work for it. It’s something we must all pursue.
At Yavneh, our students learn, pray, and take action with their feet every day. They climb stairs that remind them of the attributes we decided as a school community to cultivate within ourselves. They study what it means to be an anti-rascist and then work together to create meaningful change. They research inequities in our community and then partner with local agencies to make a difference. Doing what is right, seeking justice, is something that must be actively pursued – tzedek, tzedek tirdof (Deut 16:18).
Once again, our annual Walk-a-Thon will coincide with Shavuot. As we prepare, all of our students will be studying the Book of Ruth and focusing on the pasuk, “Wherever you will go I will go – תֵּלְכִ֜י אֵלֵ֗ךְ” (Chapter 1:16) and reflect on what Ruth walked for, as well as what they will walk for. Shavuot is the third of our shloshet ha’regalim – our three pilgrimage (or walking) festivals that in ancient times demanded we walk to Jerusalem to offer the very best of ourselves. Let’s make our offerings mean something this year and that what we are walking for counts. What would you walk for?