By Rabbi Bonnie Margulis
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
September 29 begins the festival of Sukkot. It is tradition to read the book of Ecclesiastes during the festival. A refrain throughout the book is the thought that ‘vanity, vanity, all is vanity’, as the author struggles with the transitory nature of human existence. For some, Ecclesiastes is a gloomy personal meditation on mortality. But I focus instead on the verses made famous by Pete Seeger in his folk song, “Turn, Turn, Turn” – “to everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” To me, this is a reminder that, no matter how long or short our life span might be, in every time and moment, there is a purpose and an opportunity to find meaning.
In our times, there are many such opportunities for meaningful action to promote justice, equity, love, and compassion in our state and our country. Here are just a few examples:
Our LGBTQ+ siblings are facing a state of emergency, as declared earlier this year by the Human Rights Campaign. This community is being attacked in the media, in state legislatures (including our own), in our school districts, and too often, literally on our streets. The number of trans people murdered in the US doubled between 2017 and 2021, and trans women of color comprised three-quarters of those victims.
Fair and equitable access to the ballot box is under attack, most recently through a move by our legislature to impeach our newest state Supreme Court Justice and also Wisconsin’s chief election official, both non-partisan offices. While our elected officials are engaged in these and similar undemocratic efforts, they are neglecting to address the growing crises in affordable housing, childcare, and health care.
Climate change is an ongoing issue, made manifest across the country and around the world, as demonstrated by increased wildfires, hurricanes, and floods.
We face so many issues these days, it is difficult to know what to address first. It is easy to become overwhelmed and confused and paralyzed into inaction. When that happens, remember Ecclesiastes’ teaching that each issue has its own time and its own moment. You don’t have to do everything all at once, or even do everything at all. But pick a moment, pick a purpose, and take action as you can.
Rabbi Bonnie Margulis is the chair of the Wisconsin Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and executive director of Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice.