Today we're observing Human Rights Shabbat. Human rights are woven into the fabric of our tradition. They've been there from the very beginning, the creation of humanity in the image and the likeness of God. Every human being bears God's DNA, as it were; each of us reflects a unique facet of divine infinity.
Because every human being is a reflection of God, containing a spark of divinity within, every human being has inalienable human rights regardless of race, gender, creed. The right to worship freely, without coercion. The right to pursue meaningful work. The right to earn a living wage. The right to choose the shape of one's family. The right to be treated as a whole and holy creation of God.
Over recent weeks our Torah portions have taken us into the Joseph novella. Joseph's story features several suspensions of his human rights: when his brothers throw him into the pit, when he's sold into slavery, and when he's cast into Pharaoh's jails.
In Joseph's story, of course, everything happens for a reason. Joseph himself is certain of this. When he reconnects with his brothers he assures them, "don't feel guilty for what you did -- even if you intended it for ill, God intended it for good." The Joseph story is a classic example of what our tradition calls "descent for the sake of ascent." In order to be lifted up, you have to recognize that you're someplace low.
Here's someplace low: our world is marred by human rights violations which ignore the innate wholeness and holiness of every human being.