One of the core menschlichkeit values at my school, The Davis Academy, is tzedek (“righteousness”). Tzedek means living a morally upright life. Ideally we’d all embody tzedek but this is obviously not the case. The disconnect between what we know is right(eous) and what we often find, in our own lives and certainly in the world around us, is often very stark. It turns out that living morally and ethically is much harder than it seems. It turns out that human beings might intellectually grasp the importance of moral and ethical excellence but we generally don’t yearn to do the good. If we are passionately committed to living righteously the world arounds us presents many stumbling blocks to thwart us. It’s not enough to be intellectually committed to tzedek. Both as educators and as individuals we need to feel emotionally and spiritually stirred to pursue tzedek in our daily lives. That’s why I think non-acceptance is vitally important.
Non-acceptance, outrage, and spiritual indignation are powerful motivators. Abraham felt these emotions when he argued with God against destroying Sodom and Gemorrah. Moses felt these emotions when saw an Egyptian slavedriver beating a helpless Israelite.
Non-acceptance arises when we are able to see the abyss between the world as it is and the world as it should be. Outrage arises when we realize that the status quo, so deeply entrenched and ingrained, reinforces iniquity and injustice. Spiritual indignation bubbles up when we taste the disconnect between our principles, our potential, and our personal power, and the hypocrisy, inertia, and excuses that come too easily.
The cognitive and emotional dissonance captured by non-acceptance, outrage, and spiritual indignation can propel us towards tzedek. It can help us push through the malaise and complacency that keep tzedek just beyond the brink of consciousness. When we come home to tzedek we can confront the dizzying notion that each of us has the power to make a difference.
If you’ve read this far you might enjoy the song Rise Up from my CD: Be a Blessing. It features the Mt. Zion Second Baptist Church Gospel Choir. Click here to download the song or the entire album for free from CD Baby.