It is instructive and empowering to combine two different teachings: Abraham’s remarkable negotiation with God to save innocent people from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah [Genesis 18:17]…and Portia’s plea for the “quality of mercy” in The Merchant of Venice [Scene IV, Act 1,185]. Abraham struggles to save good people in the midst of corrosive moral depravity and lack of civility. Portia begins her plea: “The quality of mercy is not strain’d. It dropeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”
How are we to conduct ourselves to maintain righteous conduct in the midst of a world beset by terrorism, divisive economic disparity, increasingly political extremism and gridlock…the list goes on. But good deeds persist, values preempt meaningless narcissism, and a true moral compass helps us from empty wandering. This coming summer, more than 100 North American and Canadian community leaders, and more than 150 rabbis, representing a pluralistic rainbow of beliefs, will travel to Jerusalem to study at the Shalom Hartman Institute. The Shalom Hartman Institute is a center of transformative thinking and teaching that addresses the major challenges facing the Jewish people and elevates the quality of Jewish life in Israel and around the world.
The summer journey is a time for intellectual and spiritual refreshment and renewal, for reconnecting with tradition and friends, and represents a tangible show of support for a vibrant but beleaguered Israel. Rabbi Donniel Hartman recently wrote, during the Days of Awe at the time of last year’s High Holy Days, that “We need less awe and more action.” It is time to move beyond flotillas, settlement blocs, U.N. declarations, Durban conferences and international posturing.
It’s time for our own personal two-state solution. The Missing Peace is the title of Dennis Ross’s book on Middle East diplomacy. Perhaps it’s not too far beyond reasonable hope to believe that a Nation of Values, and a People of Ethics, will be able to find the missing "piece" that will, ultimately, lead to Peace. It’s time that "Start-Up Nation" becomes "Value Nation." We can make a personal statement that traveling halfway around the world really means coming home. Each one of us, this year in Jerusalem! Community Leadership Summer Program: June 27-July 4, 2012. Rabbinic Torah Study Seminar: July 2-12, 2012.
Marshall S. Zolla
is a certified specialist in the field of family law in California and a member of the Shalom Hartman Institute Board of Directors
. He played a leadership role in the creation of the Hartman Institute’s Los Angeles Study Forum.