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Tradition & Innovation

On Joseph and Solitary Confinement

By Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
wall with crack showing brick behind it

When Joseph was jailed, wrongly accused
of seducing his master’s wife, what did he feel?
Did he remember his
first stint in solitary,
the pit where his brothers threw him –
empty of water but crawling with scorpions,
empty of Torah but reeking with resentment?
Each time he prepared to start over
life cast him down someplace worse.
But he knew all along that God was with him
and that God meant everything for good.
And those imprisoned today – in what
can they trust? Not in our nation’s justice
when black men receive longer sentences
than white though their crime is the same;
not in police who choose to stop and frisk
dark skin though addiction knows no color.
Compassionate One, Judge of Truth: rouse us
from slumber in which we let injustice pass.
Wake us to the nightmare of our prison system.
Goad us to create change. For the sake of children
who learn that no one cares how violent
their streets, how broken their lives;
for the sake of our own souls, damaged
every time we look away.


Republished with permission from T'ruah:The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights is an organization of rabbis from all streams of Judaism that acts on the Jewish imperative to respect and protect the human rights of all people. 

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