D’var Torah: The book that Donald Trump held up…

Written by Rabbi Josh Levy — 5 June 2020

The book that Donald Trump held up outside St John’s church in Washington on Monday contains within it the words of Isaiah: Seek justice, relieve the oppressed.

It contains within it the words of Ecclesiastes – I saw all the oppression that goes on under the sun: the tears of the oppressed, with none to comfort them; and the power of their oppressors—with none to comfort them.

It contains within it the words of Leviticus 19 – You shall not render an unfair decision: do not… show deference to the rich; … do not deal basely with your countrymen. Do not profit by the blood of your fellow.

It is a Book that demands that we do not tolerate oppression or discrimination.

A book that condemns unlawful killings – whether that of George Floyd or indeed of Iyad Hallaq.

It contains within it the words of the prophets – of whom Abraham Joshua Heschel, writing in 1962 observed:
“The sort of crimes that fill the prophets of Israel with dismay… do not go beyond that which we regard as normal, as typical ingredients of social dynamics.
To us a single act of injustice–cheating in business, exploitation of the poor–is slight; to the prophets, a disaster.
To us injustice is injurious to the welfare of the people; to the prophets it is a deathblow to existence:
to us, an episode; to them, a catastrophe, a threat to the world.”

The book contains within it the words of Psalm 96, a universalist ideal, with its central vision of universal justice for all peoples, b’mesharim – with equity.

We begin our service with its words on page 112 This book that we cherish.  The book from which we sing the songs of our people.