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87http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2012/03/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---03_09_2012
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 03_09_2012
03/08/2012 03:35 PM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
March 9, 2012

 

Hindsight is 20/20. In the last two weeks, the Beren Academy has grabbed headlines across the nation. The large feat of a small private Jewish school in Texas was irresistible for traditional and online media.

                Beren was lauded for its message in the media. They were gracious about the decision that was initially handed down by TAPPS. The coach and students demonstrated honor and humility. Then a restraining order was filed. It wasn’t unexpected. It also wasn’t unwelcome. It seemed to balance the team’s magnanimous gesture against its right to seek justice. Ultimately, the team was allowed to play. We were all thrilled that justice prevailed in the win they achieved through hard work and team spirit. Even though they didn’t go beyond that final game, they and we learned some terrific lessons for life.

                First, pursuing justice is a Jewish value. It isn’t about suing others unnecessarily (a terrible Jewish stereotype); rather, it’s consistent with our outlook to transform our world into what it ought to be. In a place where justice is lacking we find desperate and suffering people. It’s our duty to pursue justice for the sake of Torah and humanity. Deuteronomy (16:18) teaches, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” It’s stated twice to emphasize that if justice cannot be found in one court, then it should be pursued in another.

                In Beren’s case, it was appropriate to pursue what they deserved. Besides, TAPPS had already allowed Seventh-Day Adventists to play on a day other than Saturday. Torah also teaches (Leviticus 19:15ff) that “You shall not render an unfair decision.” To render a judgment for one but not the other is an offense.

                Second, pursuing justice can reveal the source of a bad and persistent problem. Even if only half the allegations are true against TAPPS in its relationship with the Muslim community, enormous good may come of it. Beren’s restraining order exposed internal problems within TAPPS, which allegedly acted with bias against groups it felt didn’t meet their arbitrary standards. When Torah teaches, “Do not show deference to the rich or the poor,” it highlights only the most obvious times we might show favoritism to one or the other. But, beyond wealth or the lack of it, we learn that we have to guard against such acts of favoritism because they neglect the greater value that comes with justice from God, not man and woman.

                This isn’t another David and Goliath story. TAPPS isn’t as big as they think they are and they were taken to task not by arms and munitions, but by justice and law. The best outcome will be a new version of TAPPS. It will be one that lives up to the letter and the spirit of the law that provides equal opportunities to groups of all kinds, regardless of their religion or manner of observance.

                So forgive me for commenting with the benefit of hindsight. My intent wasn’t to take advantage of an opportunity, but rather to comment on what I see as the middle of the story rather than the end. The media might lose interest because the story has lost its “teeth”, but it should hold our interest. It’s not over until a difference is made and justice is found. That’s the Torah way. Mazel Tov, Beren Academy on your great season and your great attitude. Kol HaKavod!

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

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