Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz is the President & Dean of the Valley Beit Midrash, the Founder & President of Uri L’Tzedek, the Founder and CEO of The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, and the author of 14 books on Jewish ethics.

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America, Repentance Is Our Only Remedy

In Judaism, teshuvah, repentance, is among the most significant of acts.

Image via Tanner Mardis/ Unsplash 

Contemporary society often seems disconnected from these ideals. Our leaders refuse to admit to indiscretions, or having admitted them, refuse to apologize. They regard an apology as a sign of weakness rather than a show of moral strength. This is worse than myopic; it is a dangerous indifference to what is right. The truth is that it takes courage to apologize, and accountability is not the same as capitulation.

The Sabbath: An Ancient Vehicle for Social Progress

We live in an oppressive age where there are few potential breaks from the enormous demands of surviving in our rapid-paced global economy. As the demand for more products delivered at a quicker, more insatiable pace becomes normalized, workers are more susceptible to oppression, animals are more easily abused, the land is mistreated, and leisure time rarely goes towards self-nourishment or reflection. All these factors lend themselves to an unhealthy workforce and, looking more broadly, a sick society. This is where the Sabbath comes in. The Sabbath acts as the great adjuster of temporal and intangible time.

How Religious Institutions Act as Forces for Progress

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Religious institutions have, at times, been at the forefront of progress by engaging society with forceful spiritual leadership. The engagement of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers grape boycott in the 1960s, for example, was part phenomenal leadership, part righteous struggle.

And while most Americans know the pivotal impact of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the Civil Rights Movement, there were many other leaders who held prominent roles in similar religiously-inspired movements. Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw (1847-1919), for example, overcame enormous discrimination and was not only ordained as a minister, but also earned a medical degree from Boston University.

Shaw was a formidable speaker, and lectured throughout the United States and Europe in favor of women’s suffrage, temperance, and progressive causes she believed would relieve the exploitation of women.