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Torah Commentary Blog

Parashat Vayeishev (December 24, 2016)
by Rabbi Allison Tick Brill

IN A RECENT CONFIRMATION CLASS, our high school students examined race relations in America and how we might respond as Jews. As part of our study, we explored the work of DJ Jay Smooth who makes popular videos to educate people on issues surrounding race. DJ Smooth suggests that we need to move away from the premise that being a good person is a fixed, immutable characteristic and see it instead as something that requires constant engagement with our imperfections. It’s like dental hygiene, he says. You don’t have good dental hygiene because, at one point, you spent a lot of time cleaning your teeth. You achieve good dental hygiene by brushing and flossing every day. So, too, we need to address constantly the prejudices and negative tendencies that can build inside us and continue to improve ourselves.

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