This I Believe

Sherril - Parsippany, New Jersey
Entered on July 11, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65


I BELIEVE IN JUSTICE. I think I have always thought that this belief came naturally to me. I was born on October 13, making me a Libra, which means my sign is the Scales. That seems pretty self-explanatory. However, that I am Jewish, more culturally than religious, and that it always seemed to me that Judaism and Justice were more or less synonymous, may be less self-explanatory. I learned from an early age that an important precept of Judaism was the concept of “Tikun Olam”, fixing the world. This resounded within me from the first time I heard it until today. I have always thought that if you were born into relative comfort and relative democracy, than it was incumbent upon you to keep in mind that the least you could do to balance the cosmic scales was to give back something to society, be it financially to charities and causes or of your own time and talent, in order to help others in need. I never understood, however, the idea that justice was “an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth”. I remember someone saying, what good is that? Then we’d all be blind and toothless. That made sense.

When I was a child, my feelings were often hurt when a friend would laugh at the physically handicapped man who we’d see hanging around our town’s Center, on our way to Hebrew School, but I never knew what to do about it. When my mother referred to our “maid” (no politically correct language in those days) being colored, I asked what she meant; did she think she was purple or red or something? I wasn’t being a goody two shoes. In fact, I was often the one to get in trouble for buying the popcorn before Hebrew School, stashing it under my desk and trying to get away with eating it in class. It seemed to me that I was always the one to get caught, even if the other kids were also hiding their popcorn and candy. I wasn’t happy about that and at the time thought it completely unjust. But now, looking back, I guess I can see there was a kind of “poetic justice” in it, after all.

I also remember something else I learned in Hebrew School. They told us there was this guy named Hillel who lived in about the third century CE and was a very wise man. One day this wise-guy came up to Hillel and asked him, ok, so if you’re so smart and wise, tell me everything there is to know about the Torah while I stand on one foot. That’s easy, replied Hillel. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, that is to say, love your neighbor as you would have him love you; or, that which is hateful to you, do not do unto others. The rest is commentary. Now go and study. Yes, this made sense

As a child, I really didn’t get injustice. It made me angry. It was unfair. And I would sometimes cry because I just didn’t understand why these injustices persisted; nor did I know what to do with the sad feelings they elicited in me.

Now as an adult, I still don’t understand why there are so many injustices, but at least I do know how to, at least partially, ameliorate the feelings. I know that dedicating part of your life to “tikun olam” will, if not exactly balance out the injustices, at least help to make them just a little more just, while at the same time help to salve the soul


So, I grew up, found a career as a Speech Pathologist, working early on with physically disabled kids and later with infants and toddlers at risk for impaired speech and language development. Perhaps, becoming a lawyer may have been a better way to serve the cause of Justice, but I don’t think so. I have tried through involvement with and support of organizations that work to promote justice and through recent political involvement, to model for my children the importance of not only recognizing justice as an ideal, but also acting on this belief. In this I believe.