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60http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2011/08/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---08_12_2011
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 08_12_2011
08/10/2011 11:13 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
August 12, 2011

Turn on the news on any device you own and you’ll soon learn about strife and misery around the world. In particular, the Horn of Africa (including Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Djibouti) is drowning in the despair of starvation and homelessness. The misery that is pronounced in the eyes of malnourished children is outdone only by the anguish of their parents. The long and tortuous journey they make from their homes brings them to desolate and arid grounds where hunger and death await them. From the comfort of our living rooms we dare to compare their strife to anything else. I was moved by the graphic scenes and reports. What to do?

                We can take a cue from what we read in this week’s Torah portion, V’etchanan, in Deuteronomy. In 4:30-31, we read:

 

When you are in distress because all these things have befallen you and, in the end, return to the Lord your God and obey Him. For the Lord your God is a compassionate God: He will not fail you nor will He let you perish; He will not forget the covenant which He made on oath with your fathers.

 

                Don’t say that the Africans are not part of this covenant. Say, WE are part of this covenant. We are in distress over the hunger and starvation that is killing them in this unsightly display of inhumanity. “God is a compassionate God” but it is not God who will feed the children. It is you and I whom God will not fail in our efforts to reach across the globe and feed these children. “God will not fail you nor will God let you perish” in attempts to relieve suffering that is no fault of theirs.

                The Torah portion continues with a repetition of the Ten Commandments. It is an assurance that just as God spoke to our ancestors, God speaks to each of us. Moses declared, “It was not with our fathers that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, the living, every one of us here today” (Deut. 5:3). The covenant that was sealed then is a living covenant. It lives in us and the way we bear witness to it.

                So the Torah portion includes the Shema (Deut 6:4ff), the Watchword of our Faith, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” We are witnesses to God’s teachings when we do them. We cannot proclaim faith, alone; it isn’t enough. We are obligated to bear witness; to do God’s teachings. We are not evangelical in our call to others; we are passionate in our effort to fulfill our covenant. Isaiah teaches (58:7ff),

 

“It is to share your bread with the hungry,
And to take the wretched poor into your home;
When you see the naked, to clothe him,
And not to ignore your own kin.

Then shall your light burst through like the dawn
And your healing spring up quickly!

 

                The Horn of Africa is not the only place where war and famine exist. It is horrifying but also emblematic of world hunger and poverty. We, Americans, are uniquely poised to help. Before we can wish each other Shabbat Shalom, a day of rest for ourselves, let’s bear witness to the covenant. Go to www.urj.org and help today. Give something. Do a mitzvah.

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

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