A Physical Box
An annual cycle of creating, using and opening a physical box -- for individuals, families, groups, schools and synagogues
Order a Box
We are thrilled to have partnered with Israeli artist Eli Kaplan Wildmann on an exquisite globe-like box that institutions such as Rodeph Sholom, Central Synagogue, Westchester Reform Temple, Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley, and Tiferet Bet Israel have ordered in bulk for all of their members. The box's interactive design allows users to personalize their boxes with a photograph of someone who inspires them, a list of issues that matter to them, and more. We are considering a second production run, so complete this form if you are interested in a bulk order.
Build A Box
You can of course make your own box as well!
Find a box. You can use a shoe box, a mason jar, an old cigar case, or any other container that will fit your slips of paper.
Decorate it. You can paint, draw or color on your box, put on stickers or attach pictures, add the names of heroes and heroines from ancient and modern history or your family. You might also include quotes that inspire you, such as:
"Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof -- Justice, justice, you shall pursue" -- Deuteronomy 16:20
“You shall love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” - Deuteronomy 10:19
“Learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice; aid the wronged. Uphold the rights of the orphan; defend the cause of the widow.” - Isaiah 1:17
“Do justice, love goodness, and walk modestly with your God.” - Micah 6:8
“Who knows, perhaps it was for a time such as this that you reached your position of privilege?” - Esther 4:14
“You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it” (Pirke Avot 2:21)
“Anyone who is able to protest against the transgressions of the entire world and does not is punished for the transgressions of the entire world.” - Shabbat 54a
“In a free society where terrible wrongs exist, some are guilty but all are responsible.” -- R’ Heschel
Think literally outside the box!
After you've created your box, say a blessing. You've created something original. Consider saying a shecheheyanu blessing to celebrate this new, unique and important tool in your life.
Baruch atah hashem eloheinu melech ha-olam she-hecheyanu ve-kiyimanu ve-higianu lazman hazeh.
Blessed are You, Eternal One, Sovereign of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion.
Using Your Box
Reflection is a critical component in the work of pursuing social action and social justice. When we fail to examine our perceptions and conclusions from an experience, we risk allowing that experience to remain external to ourselves -- as opposed to using the experience to examine our assumptions, cement important lessons, and influence our future behavior.
Talking with others
If you have just completed volunteer or advocacy work with others, take some time to share your experiences, observations, feelings, and learnings with one another. This can help some individuals deepen their perspective before recording it on their reflection slips. You might use a "What? So What? Now What?" structure to organize a debrief:
What? What happened? What did you do? What did you notice or experience during the work?
So What? What is the significance of the work completed? What was the impact on the world and on the individuals present? Why was this work necessary in the first place, and what are its broader causes?
Now What? What are the implications? What is needed now? What will you commit to doing next?
Completing your reflection
Now take time to reflect individually. On a reflection slip from our template collection, or on your own slip of paper, write a reflection about your experience. You might answer one or more of the following questions:
What were your reasons or motives for participating?
What did you do?
Who did you meet?
How did you feel?
What was your impact?
What did you learn?
Why was this work necessary in the first place?
What must be done next?
Saying a blessing
1. As you add your slip of paper to your Tzedek Box, offer a prayer of impact, humility and sustenance. For example:
G-d of our ancestors,
Who listened as Abraham advocated for the innocent
Who heard the cries of the Israelites crushed by oppression
Who called us to stand with the widow, the orphan, the stranger
May our work today help to fulfill the call for justice and righteousness
May we remember that we alone cannot complete the work
May we share strength and courage with everyone working for peace and dignity throughout the world. Amen.
2. Or you might recite this simple blessing, invoking G-d's partnership in the work of justice:
Baruch atah Hashem, Eloheinu melech haolam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu lirdof tzedek.
We praise You, Eternal One, Sovereign of the universe, who calls us to holiness through mitzvot, commanding us to pursue tzedek/justice.
While some groups are engaged in sophisticated and sustained community-based organizing efforts, some schools or synagogues may be looking for a calendar of issues to "spotlight" through speaker series, book/film clubs, and action opportunties. Here are just a sampling of suggestions for the school year:
Environmental Justice (Tu Bishevat)
Women's Rights (Purim)
Workers' Rights (Passover)
Opening Your Boxes:
We invite you to join us in opening your box on Pesach Sheni, a month after Passover. Why?
Pesach Sheni or “Second Passover” is a Biblical holiday. Some Israelites were unable to perform the Passover pilgrimage due to being in an impure state, often understood to mean they were handling corpses. Finding this rule unfair, these members of society successfully lobbied Moses to institute a second chance to make their pilgrimage one month later (14 Iyyar). Pesach Sheni was the result of a successful advocacy day; may all of our efforts to change the law for a more just society be so fruitful!
Most commonly observed today in Chasidic communities, Pesach Sheni is now seen as a day for everyone to come together for a celebration of second chances. Indeed, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950), the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, taught that the true significance of the holiday is to teach us that it is never too late to rectify a past failing.
This is why we have embraced Pesach Sheni for Yom HaTzedek -- because: (1) we see such beautiful symmetry between this Biblical occasion to ensure everyone could sacrifice for the Eternal, and Yom HaTzedek is an opportunity for Jews all around the world to give of themselves for the Greater Good, (2) we see the holiday as enabling us to build from the redemptive message of Passover and serve as a “second chance” moment to affirm that the Exodus is not over until all of us are free (note that no other festival holiday has a “second chance,” emphasizing the special role that Passover and our liberation story plays in our history), (3) we appreciate that the holiday reminds us to think about those who have been left out and who deserve a seat at the table, which tzedek work seeks to rectify, (4) it was the result of successful lobbying and speaks to the importance of raising your voice on behalf of what's right and fair, (5) we love that Pesach Sheni was also a holiday that “bubbled up” through popular demand -- and could use a modern renaissance that we can all help spark.
One additional fun fact: tradition teaches us that Iyar 14 is when the matzah carried by the Israelites in the desert ran out, and manna began to fall from the sky, which is both why matzah is often eaten on Pesach Sheni and why we can now reflect on the post-matzah world in which we want to live. For more information on Pesach Sheni as it has been observed traditionally, see here.
As Pesach Sheni approaches, we will share tips on a meaningful ritual related to opening your boxes.