This week's parashah concludes with an unusual ritual. Upon the discovery of a murder victim whose perpetrator is unknown, the leaders and priests of the city closest to the discovery are commanded to sacrifice a calf and publicly deny any responsibility for the crime. Rabbinic interpretation varies about this ritual of eglah arufah (literally: a decapitated calf). While Maimonides suggests a pragmatic reason for this ritual--that this very public display would compel onlookers to seek the perpetrator and bring him to justice, others explain the ritual in more philosophical terms. Biblical scholar Nechama Leibowitz posits that the sacrifice and the accompanying public declaration disrupted daily life intentionally. The murder of an individual is a disruptive act and thus the life of the city cannot continue unchanged by the violence that occurred close by. The ritual, she explains, demands that the leaders, religious figures and inhabitants of the city decry violence and seek justice, reevaluating their commitment to preserving life and recognizing the sanctity of every human being. The mitzvah at the end of the parashah reminds us that not only must we address violence as a serious threat, but we must also educate our communities to take responsibility for everyone in their midst and to preach a message of peace and justice, kindness and accountability.
This morning cour 8th grade presented a meaningful and inspiring program to commemorate the event of September 11, 2001, for the rest of the middle school and middle school parents. Through their various stations, the students demonstrated their dedication to creating a more just world, one in which we come together to heal, rebuild, and shine light on the goodness of humanity.