Rabbi Avi Killip

Talmudic Wisdom on Fighting Racism

Anyone living in America today will eventually encounter racism they cannot easily fix or change, just as our ancestors could not entirely avoid or correct idolatry. What do we do when that happens? How can we reject ideas as pervasive and corrosive as racism? The Talmud’s reflections on the struggle against idolatry raise similar questions and offer instructions on how to actively demonstrate objection through our behavior so that we do not unintentionally uphold the status quo. The anti-idol mandate can teach us a lot about how to live in a culture we see as fundamentally evil, even when we do not have the power to change it. Transferring idolatry to racism, the entire tractate of Avodah Zarah can be read as an attempt to think through how to live an anti-racist life.