“With righteousness shall you be established, go far away from oppression, for you shall not fear, and from ruin, for it will not come near you (Isaiah 54:14).” What I find compelling about this verse is how it essentially encourages us to completely disassociate ourselves with oppression of others, since our mission is to be righteous. In theory, I’m with it. We should condemn the oppression of others, and not partake in it. But from my understanding of our role in the world, it’s to be the light unto the nations, to work towards the overall betterment of the global community. How can we do that if we’re completely removed from the problems that we’re meant to be solving?
In that regard, an organization that I deeply respect, BINA (The Secular Yeshiva) purposely built its headquarters in a not-so-great neighborhood of Tel Aviv. They did this specifically because they’re operating with the mentality that if we’re preaching tikkun olam, we can’t be isolated and removed from society’s problems. So how do we do our jobs, behaving righteously, without interacting with the oppression that our society suffers from?