Instead of our traditional Through a Mussar Lens column this month, Yashar took a different approach to exploring our theme of justice. We are blessed to have two former state legislators in The Mussar Institute community, both of whom agreed to be interviewed about their careers, thoughts on justice, and experiences as students of Mussar.
I hope you will enjoy reading (and/or listening to) the discussions I had with Leona Siadek, a former California assemblywoman, and Marshall Rauch, a former North Carolina state senator, as much as I enjoyed having them. I am grateful to both for their generosity in sharing their time and thoughts with us.
As it turns out, February produced a trifecta of perspectives for me on this theme. A week after my two interviews, my own assemblyman, Jose Medina, spoke to my congregation at Shabbat services about his pursuit of Jewish social values in the California legislature today. Medina raised his children Jewish in our synagogue years ago while retaining his Catholic faith, but he joined the Jewish caucus in Sacramento because of his longtime connections and affinity for the Jewish approach to living, thinking and governing.
During his Friday night talk, Medina quoted Rabbi Hillel in “Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers)”: “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” These questions are valuable for someone entrusted with the public welfare to have at the forefront of his mind, and they serve as valuable guideposts in the pursuit of justice.
It also could not have been a coincidence that all of these discussions preceded Generosity Week. After all, the Hebrew word for justice, tzedek, shares the root with tzedakah, the word for charity. It has been a month of lessons for me, and I wish the same for you.
Finally, I need to express my appreciation to two additional contributors this month. My friend Baruch Lazewnik graciously researched the differences between the Navardok and Slobotka Mussar yeshivas, providing us with some thought-provoking history. Finally, thank you to TMI board member Sandra Garrett for sharing her personal Mussar story.
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