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Do it Yourself

08/12/2021 01:04:58 PM

Aug12

I first encountered the concept of “logical consequences” as a camp counselor at Ramah Darom. As part of our training, we were taught that when a camper’s behavior needs some course correction, it is always better to find a consequence that logically would follow from the intentions of the original wrong instead of some disconnected punishment. For example, if a camper was insulting someone, then you would explain how that isn’t the way we treat one another and have that camper apologize and come up with something nice to say instead. Usually it was pretty straightforward to find a logical consequence for these types of misbehaviors, but I remember the challenge of trying to find a logical consequence for a camper who was throwing rocks. Thinking that a thrown rock is dangerous and can hurt people, I reasoned that maybe it made sense for the camper to remove rocks from the sports field – rocks that potentially might cause an injury to a player that might fall (maybe you might have come up with something better). As my campers removed these rocks, I remember thinking about whether or not these rocks really should be removed or not, whether it made a difference, or whether this was a logical and fair enough consequence. But I figured if it was something I thought was worthy enough for my campers to do, then instead of just standing on the side supervising, I might as well jump in and remove the same quota of rocks myself. 

In this week’s portion, parshat Shoftim, we see a similar idea of not just talking the talk, but also walking the walk. The parshah explains that in capital cases, a person can only be convicted by the testimony of two or more witnesses. According to the Torah law, these two witnesses are then required to be first in line to perform the execution. We all know that words can be cheap, but our Torah doesn’t want this to be the case. If these witnesses are going to stand up and declare someone liable for death, then these witnesses must be willing to do the deed themselves. Admittedly, this case is a little different than administering logical consequences to campers, but the idea that we should be willing to act and be involved with the punishments we devised is similar. When inflicting difficulties on others, one ought not take the easy way out and leave the administration of such difficulties to others. Rather we should be involved first hand and practice what we preach. 

While this principle surely is applicable in the context of logical consequences and serving as witnesses for capital cases, the idea that we should be live in accordance with our words and values ought to be infused with all aspects of our lives. If we truly are concerned about global climate change, then we ought to reflect on our own carbon footprint. If we truly expect to be a racially just society, then we ought to be the first ones to engage with the work. If we truly stand in support of Israel, then we ought to show up and speak up to defend Zionism. No matter what our issues are, when we stand up to speak our truths, let our words not be cheap. Rather let them reflect who we are and what we believe, and let them pave the way for our feet to follow. 

Shabbat Shalom

Mon, September 20 2021 14 Tishrei 5782