In preparation for our last bat mitzvah, the social hall was reset for a beautiful Kiddush luncheon. Afterwards, I found the food collection and clothing collection barrels stashed in the utility room. This was a wise move for two reasons – space was needed in the social hall, and it was pretty much guaranteed that no one would be looking for the collection barrels.
With the exception of our youngest students when Beit Sefer (Religious School) is in session, this mitzvah opportunity is usually ignored by our congregants. Our hearts open with compassion for those in our communities, and elsewhere, who lack basic necessities in life – food and clothing and housing – and we wish we could do something. Compassion and wishing isn’t enough! We have an easy and obvious opportunity for each of us to easily contribute in a concrete way.
Yes, during the High Holidays we will have our annual food drive, inspired by fasting on Yom Kippur. Then some of us will contribute to our annual clothing drive. But the needs of the poor and homeless aren’t seasonal. They are ongoing, every day.
There is a common phrase that comes from this week’s Torah portion, Eikev. Moses tells the Israelites, “God subjected you to the hardship of hunger and then gave you manna to eat, which neither you nor your ancestors had ever known, in order to teach you that man does not live by bread alone…” This phrase, that one doesn’t live by bread alone, is commonly used to suggest that one needs more than food; one needs culture, art, “food for the spirit” as well.
Just as God graced us with food, we are obligated to provide for others. May I suggest that every time you go to the grocery store you buy one item that is designated as food for the hungry, and you bring that non-perishable food with you to the temple. Many of us just purchased back-to-school clothes; our clothing barrels will happily accept clean outgrown clothes. I will accept my own challenge; together let us keep those barrels stocked so that we can take them to those in our community who will cherish our simple gifts.
May you have a week of blessings and a Shabbat of peace.
Rabbi Debbie Israel