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The End of the Zero-Sum Game

“Zero-sum game” – a game in which the sum of the winnings and losses of the various players is always zero, the losses being counted negatively. (

Lately I hear arguments about a zero-sum game:

IF we pay attention to institutional racism,

     we might miss an opportunity to deal with gun violence.

IF we focus on gun violence,

we might drop the ball on disability rights.

IF we focus on the rights of disabled people,

we might forget the violence against women and transwomen of color.

IF we focus on justice for transgender people

what about women’s rights?

IF we focus on women’s rights

what about economic justice for all?

And if we are so focused on economic justice for all

what about… surely by now you get my point:

Justice is not a zero-sum game in which I am the natural enemy of another.

Justice is when we notice that we are natural allies: the queers, the browns, the blacks, the ones on wheels, the blinds, the poors, the last in line, the fats, the funny-looking, the girls, the trans, the bis, the dispossessed of all nations, the Palestinians AND the Jews, all the people who usually get shown the back door…

Until we notice that we are all at the same door

Until we notice that we are all


And on that day, we will be One

And God’s Name will be One. – Jewish Prayer Book

I don’t know exactly  how we get there, but I am determined to work for it. I am determined to see the miraculous spark of the Holy One in every single face before my own. I won’t lie down in the road to be run over, but I will do my best to lift up every other person that I can. I will deal with my fears.

Because I am really, really tired of zero-sum games.

Tzedek, Tzedek, Tirdof.

Justice, Justice, you shall pursue.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi based in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, mom, poodle groomer, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at as the Coffee Shop Rabbi.

One thought on “The End of the Zero-Sum Game”

  1. Does anyone ever know what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes? Of course not!

    If we were all to stop worrying about what we would have “to give up” to allow the other to share in the bounty that Hashem has provided, there would be ENOUGH for all. So many of our world problems would disappear and peace and bounty would be the pervading situation. Unfortunately the ME, ME, ME attitude seems to be the central cause of so many of the Zero-sum Game approach to everything. How sad that mankind is so self-centered. Daily I pray for the Meshiach, but not the end of the end of the world.


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