“We had better face up to the demands of justice, compassion, and brotherhood if we truly seek peace, order and life itself.”
In this sermon delivered on November 3, 1968, Rabbi Olan uses the upcoming presidential election as an opportunity to extend his concept of moral laws. In many previous sermons, he had asserted that just as there are immutable laws of nature (his favorite example is the law of gravity), so there is a law of justice that operates just as inexorably. When we violate that law and behave unjustly, whether towards marginalized people at home or the people of Vietnam, we will have to pay.
In this sermon, however, he adds a law of compassion, and tells the story that God judges humankind from two thrones: from the throne of justice, we are all doomed, because the rich have not aided the poor and the powerful have not supported the weak. Fortunately, says Rabbi Olan, God’s justice is tempered with his mercy: the law of compassion balances the law of justice. It is not that we will be forgiven no matter what we do: we must align our behavior with the law of compassion if we want to live in a world of “peace, order and life”.
Rabbi Olan then adds a third principle: unity, which he also calls “brotherhood” (using the language of his day). There is one God, and we are all His children. This explains the law of justice: because we are all members of one human family, it is natural that “we share with each other in love”.
*Written by Lionel S. Joseph and Frances M. Olan*