Power and Love

Yitro By :  Rachel Rosenthal JTS Alum (Kekst Graduate School), Gemara Faculty and Director of External Affairs, Yeshivat Maharat Posted On Feb 17, 2017 / 5777 | דבר אחר | A Different Perspective | Social Justice
[P]ower without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.
― Martin Luther King Jr., “Where Do We Go From Here?” (1967)

For the Israelites, who have only known power as a source of violence and destruction, the process of becoming a free nation is terrifying. They repeatedly ask Moshe to take them back to Egypt, fearing that they cannot survive on their own. However, at the moment of receiving the Torah, God promises the Israelites that they will be God’s chosen people, showering them with love during the ultimate display of power that is the revelation at Sinai. It is not enough for God to demand subservience from the Israelites. Their fealty must come from love, from a genuine desire to have a relationship with God.

In the world today, it feels like there are too many displays of power that are devoid of love, and too many hollow proclamations of love that are devoid of any action. In this week’s parashah, Moshe shows the Israelites how to create a justice system, and God reminds them that the system is built from loyalty and affection. How will we break out of our echo chambers and armchair activism to pursue true justice, a justice built on both power and love?