“When we practice injustices we reap the whirlwind. …If we do justly, we can find enduring peace.”
In this sermon, delivered on October 13, 1968, Rabbi Olan wrestles with the question, where will we look for justice if we no longer believe that a personal God sits in judgment over us. He replaces the image of God as judge with a “law of justice” that is as inexorable as the law of gravity.
Rabbi Olan takes the strong position that a peaceful society can only result if we all behave according to this law of justice. He says that we have misunderstood the concept of “law and order”: it is not the forcible suppression of disorder (which he calls “anarchy”) by police power at home and military power overseas. Rather, peace and order come at a price: “we who sit in comfort” will have to give up much of our privilege in order to eliminate poverty and racial injustice. But if we do not do so, the price will be much higher: the “death and evil” that Moses warned Israel of if the people turned away from righteousness.
Formal religious observance is not enough: we cannot just “pay our dues in God’s Temple and praise His Holy Name.” In the moral universe in which we live, the healthy must help the sick, “the rich are obligated to help the poor, the strong the weak, the talented those who are deprived of it.” If we do so, we will be following the law of justice. We will be making the choice that Moses offered to the people as the alternative to death and evil: “choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed.”
As you read this sermon, reflect on your own beliefs about justice and how it is to be achieved.
*Written by Frances M. Olan and Lionel S. Joseph*