Rabbi Hillel was asked to summarise the entire Torah while standing on one foot. His response: “That which is hateful to you, do not to others. All the rest is commentary. Now, go study.”
On1Foot is an amazing, open source web tool developed by The American Jewish World Service, for helping us all to explore the rich meanings of Rabbi Hillel’s words, and to develop our own social justice commentaries based on Torah and other texts.
We Jews are seldom at a loss for words, and never was that more in evidence than on this site. On1Foot is an interactive database of 338 divrei torah and hundreds of classes based on 1811 Jewish source texts – all uploaded to this website. The sources can be filtered by era – biblical, rabbinic, medieval, modern and contemporary – and by category including tikkun olam, labour rights, the environment, poverty, ethics, migration, gender, sexual orientation, ethical consumption and tzedakah. The classes can be filtered by educational level from early childhood to adulthood. And the divrei torah can be filtered by parsha, by holiday, by age level and by category.
So, you’ve lucked out and are asked to give a d’var torah on, oh, just to pull one out of the air, Bamidbar. Bamidbar is, in a nutshell, the census and camping arrangements of our tribes – troops — in the desert, and a d’var torah about that seems like it would be about as dry. On1Foot to the rescue! Seek, and you shall find several commentaries to inspire you, or even to use, addressing important issues about that census. In particular, Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster discusses those who were not counted in the census: anyone not able, or deemed incapable, to bear arms or serve as a priest, namely women, children, the elderly and the disabled. I broke my leg a month ago, and have experienced, baruch ha-Shem only temporarily, a taste of the exclusion from the mainstream of life, that physical impairment brings and many of us have experienced invisibility of one kind or another.
Al Pi Adonai, B’yad Moshe
But, try as we might, we cannot always find the right words to express ourselves. When I hear callous government attitudes about asylum seekers and — pregnant, young, old and infirmed – how Australia denies them safe shores, I long for better words than I am able to generate myself. Here’s what I came up when I searched On1Foot:
“You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan. If you do mistreat them, I will heed their outcry as soon as they cry out to Me, and My anger shall blaze forth and I will put you to the sword, and your own wives shall become widows and your children orphans.” Exodus 22:20-23
This phenomenal resource is free for the taking. But it is not only for us to take, but also to give. As an open source database, we are all invited and encouraged to upload our own sources, divrei torah and classes and the site makes that easy to do.
I hope you will avail yourselves of the immense resource On1Foot offers. And hopefully, by the time I write the next article in this series, I’ll be back on two feet.