Divrei Torah

This page will contain divrei Torah exploring human rights issues raised in the weekly Torah portions, other books of the Bible, and holidays.

If you would like to contribute, please use the contact page of this website to be in touch.

Why makes divrei Torah on this website distinct

The sole purpose of divrei Torah on this website will be to educate and stimulate discussion of human rights in the Jewish community. A brief explanation. . .

What Are Human Rights?

People often refer to any noble political cause (which they happen to agree wtih) as a campaign for human rights. For our purposes here, though, human rights are a very, very small subset of our beliefs that are so strongly held and so widely accepted that we consider them universal. This means they apply to everyone all the time, regardless of how great the emergency or important the reason for violating them might seem. And everyone has to respect them- we don’t let anyone claim that their religion or culture requires them to violate human rights.

To Educate and Discuss

To educate and discuss means to recognize that there are multiple, valid perspectives on what human rights should be and how we should go about fulfilling them. The Human Rights Haggadah is not to advocate for or against any political causes. Rather, the goal is to explain how human rights values should inform political decisions and how political conflicts often have conflicting human rights values at their core.

What Does this have to do with torah?

On this website we’ll examine human rights issues raised in the Torah in both laws and stories. Many human rights issues are ancient, and our tradition has wisdom or insight about them. Other human rights principles are in direct conflict with the Torah. When there is a conflict between Torah and human rights values we will acknowledge it openly and respect multiple perspectives on how such conflicts should be handled.

Since human rights are so frequently used as a hammer to bludgeon Israel with, in many quarters of the Jewish community there is reflexive resistance and cynicism to the entire human rights movement. In the Human Rights Haggadah we will treat Israel respectfully. This means that while Israel’s actions can be scrutinized and criticized when warranted, any discussion of Israel will make sure to note the very difficult dilemmas Israel often faces when attempting to balance human rights values and the significant measures it often takes to try to do this.