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  • Writer's pictureIOWA Project

Balance of Care: Challenging and Healing Multiple Forms of Oppression

By Yehudah Webster & Sam Fine

This period between Pesach and Shavuot signifies leaving Mitzrayim and receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai. In the Rabbinic tradition, the letters that spell out the name of this Hebrew month; I-Y-A-R are an acronym for a phrase from Shmot/Exodus 15:26, "I, Hashem are your healer." signifying Iyar as a month of personal and communal healing. This month, we want to offer a practice and framing for healing and moving into a balance of care. In the wake of ongoing violence, devastation, and grief in Israel and Palestine, we are in a heightened moment of increased antisemitism, islamophobia, and anti-Blackness, among many other forms of oppression, harm, and hate. Many are and have been feeling unsafe, and that fear is compelling many to live into a hierarchy of power, value, and care in order to feel safe.

Amidst heightened fear and tensions on U.S. and international college campuses, the need for compassion and understanding has never been more urgent. Yet, navigating through layers of oppression and hate requires a balance of care—a framework developed by Kirva, inspired by Valarie Kaur’s Revolutionary Love Project. This framework is a practice for the soul, emphasizing concrete actions aimed at nurturing ourselves and our communities while challenging systems of oppression and hate. Alongside the spiritual practices of Mussar, this framework can be instrumental in aligning with our values, and disrupting expressions of hierarchy, oppression, and hate. Kirva’s balance of care includes:

Balance of care graphic, which shows our four domains for care: care for fellow (those targeted by oppression), care for opponoent (those opponent who oppose your efforts for justice), care for self, all in connection with HaShem.

  1. Care for Self and Communal Self: Central to the balance of care is nurturing our own well-being and spiritual growth, beyond self-care. This may look like asserting boundaries.  

  2. Care for Fellows and Those Targeted by Oppressed: In a hierarchical world, it is essential to correct the way care is extended. This means amplifying the voices of folks targeted by oppression, advocating for their rights, and actively working to dismantle the systems that perpetuate their marginalization.

  3. Care for Opponents: To maintain a balance of care, we must also extend care to those who oppose our efforts for justice. It means recognizing the humanity in others and seeking to foster understanding and dialogue, even in the face of disagreement and conflict. This may include tochocha/rebuke.

  4. Connection to HaShem: Grounding our actions in The Spirit that exists outside of ourselves as a way to be accountable to values greater than ourselves as a way of being accountable to values great than ourselves and eachother, and to be more aware of the power we wield.

All of these modalities of care exist within the reality of power dynamics. Maintaining a balance of care requires us to extend care to folks lower on the hierarchy of power, value, and care, regardless of if they fall into self, fellow, or the opponent category. It requires courage, humility, and an unwavering commitment to justice. It demands that we confront our own biases and privileges, engage in difficult conversations, and actively challenge the systems of power and oppression that perpetuate hatred and division.

Maintaining a balance of care requires strength and flexibility in our soul traits. In one moment, we need the anavah to take our place but no more than our space. In another moment we need to tap into our anger to fuel our efforts while simultaneously having forbearance for ourselves, each other, and our movements for justice. Or we need to bridge the empathy gap that many of us are struggling to do right now.

We’re going to be sharing more spiritual practices on our newly launched Instagram and TikTok pages to help us maintain this very challenging balance of care. This blog post is adapted from a recent video we shared. In the meantime, I want to offer a cheshbon Hanefesh/soul accounting practice on the balance of care framework:

For the next five minutes, I invite you to reflect and journal on an action, or missed action, that you could have done that could have better reflected a balance of care; care for self and the communal self, care for those targeted by oppression, or care for those that oppose your efforts of justice, all through connection with HaShem.

Strength and blessings,

Yehudah & Sam


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