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Shayna Abramson

What Are My Religious Obligations?

As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, I constantly ask myself: What would I have to do to feel like I’m not a bystander to the injustices around me?

Each society has its own injustices, so this question is always relevant. But at the moment, when I look at some of the developments in Israeli politics, it seems more relevant than ever.

When I moved to Israel, I set for myself one concrete requirement: I had to attend 4 events a year related to creating social change. I would keep a list, and check off the numbers, to ensure I met this obligation.

In this moment of urgency, I find myself asking: Should I change my calculations?

Assuming that my obligation to create change has increased due to national circumstances:

How do I factor in activities like my blogging? Am I allowed to factor in that elements of my career involve advancing causes I care about? Am I allowed to factor in that I am blessed with a family situation that is busier than it was 10 years ago, when I moved here?

I believe that one of the deepest ways I can contribute to the solution is to promote a Torah of kindness. So if I am teaching Torah, does that “count”? How does that measure against attending a rally?

I don’t have answers to these questions, but as a religious Jew, I keep on asking myself: Haim yatzati yedey chovati -have I fulfilled my obligation to make this world a better place -litaken olam bemalchut Shaday.

About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.