Shattering the Temple of Liberty

The following is made available as a passage of "Kinot" (lamentations) for use on Tisha B'Av. — AW


When a society severs itself from justice and decency, disaster follows.

Last Shabbat the Jewish community read a Prophetic outcry to —
Seek justice!
Help the oppressed!
Defend the orphan!
Befriend the widow!

the city that was once fulfilled with transformative justice,
Where upright fairness dwelt —
Now murderers live.

Your rulers are rogues
And cronies of thieves —
Every one avid for bribes,
Greedy for payoffs.
They do not plead for the orphan,
And the widow's case remains lost in the dockets.

Says God of hosts:
I will turn My hand against you,
Smelt out your dross in a crucible,
And remove all your slag.
Then I will restore your judges as of old
And your mayors as in the early days.
Then once again you can be called
City of Upright Justice, Faithful City.
(Above from Isaiah 1, various verses)

We are taught to read this passaage just before we remember with grief the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, when the Jewish community of the Land of Isael lost both its sacred comnnection with the land and its sovereign ability to exercise political power in a just and responsible way.

Today (Tisha B'Av), as we recall the Destruction of the Temple, we remember that stark equation: If we do not act justly, we lose the power to bring justice about. If we alienate ourselves from the earth, the earth treats us as aliens: we lose touch with her.

Last week, thousands of people came to Philadelphia with a Prophetic outcry:
Put an end to the corporate greed that is despoiling our earth.

Meet the needs of the poor.

Create a justice system that is truly just, that does not shovel African-Americans, Hispanics, and youth intio prison, that does not celebrate the death penalty.

A few of those who came — we are sad and sorrowful to say — held so much rage, fear, or alienation that they lifted their hands in violence.
But almost all lifted their voices as Isaiah did — with compassionate, disciplined nonviolence: marches and civil disobedience.
And the result was that this prophetic outcry — no matter how committed to nonviolence — was met with —

  • threats to prosecute legitimate acts of non-violent civil disobedience with maximum penalties.;
  • enormous unprecedented bails;
  • brutalization in prison;
  • infiltration and placement of provocateurs;
  • illegitimate search warrants.

A society that will not heed its Prophetic voices, a city that imprisons them, silences them, beats them, has already shattered its own deepest holy places.
The history we Jews recall in grief today reminds us: when you shatter holiness, disaster follows.
In our ancient tradition, it was the Holy Temple in Jerusalem that was the cradle of our freedom and our holiness.

Today, in America, Philadelphia is the cradle of our liberty. It should not be where Liberty is strangled in its cradle.

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