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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Just three questions

Published: September 26, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

Two thousand years ago the great Rabbi Hillel posed three rhetorical questions. In the first he asks, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” With these words Hillel demands that we as individuals must make our well being our top priority. While we can hope that others will look out for us, we cannot assume that. It is our responsibility to ensure our own success in this world. This thought process similarly applies to our community. We must assume that here will be no one in the broader community that will work for the well being of Brandeis students. We must take this cause into our hands; fighting for better food, better living conditions, better learning conditions and an overall better quality of life. We as Brandeis students must take action if we want our own lives to improve. They say that all politics are local and therefore our top priority should be improving the communities closest to us.

Rabbi Hillel’s second question asks, “If I am only for myself, what am ‘I’?” While it may seem that this question contradicts his first, the two actually complement each other perfectly. While it is our responsibility to look after ourselves, it is also our responsibility to recognize our privileges and to look after those who don’t share the same opportunities as we do. As Brandeis students we must organize to reduce global poverty, we must work to combat genocide and racism and we must send aide to the victims of natural disasters. It is not just a nice thing to do; it is our responsibility as members of the global community.

The third and final question is probably the most important for idealistic college students. Hillel demands, “If not now, then when?” All of us want to change the world, all of us want to see better food at Brandeis and better our community, all of us want to end wars and end racism. But ultimately all of us have other responsibilities, we have schoolwork and jobs and active social lives. Where do we find the time to take action? Rabbi Hillel’s third question forces us to realize that there is no better time than now to act. We are young and pissed off and as we grow older we will only acquire more responsibilities. We must mobilize now to ensure the long term success of ourselves and of the global community.