Sunday, April 20, 2008

Opening Our Tent: Welcoming the Stranger

Opening Our Tent: Welcoming the Stranger
Rosh Hashanah Morning 2007-5768
Rabbi David Kaufman

Today, we read the story of the Binding of Isaac, but I would like to talk about another aspect of the story of Abraham’s life without which there would have been no binding of Isaac. There would have been no Isaac. It is a story found only three chapters earlier in the book of Genesis and is more directly connected to the holiday of Sukkot.

Once, on a hot day, Abraham sat under the shadow of the oak, at the entrance of his tent, and saw Three Strangers standing before him. Abraham loved to receive strangers. He immediately got up and ran to meet them, bowed to the earth, and invited them to rest at his home under the tree and to strengthen themselves with food.

The strangers came to his abode. According to the custom of that time, Abraham washed their feet, gave them bread which had just been prepared by his wife Sarah, set forth oil, milk, and the best fatted calf, and called them to eat.

And they said to him, "Where is Sarah, thy wife?"
He answered, "Behold, in the tent."

One of Them said, "I will assuredly return to thee in a year; and, behold, Sarah thy wife shall have a son."

Sarah, who was standing out of sight in the entrance to the tent, heard these words. She laughed to herself and thought, "How can this be possible, when I am already old?"

But the Stranger said, "Why should Sarah laugh?...Is anything too hard for Adonai? At the time appointed I will return to you,... and Sarah shall bear a son."

And one year later, Isaac was born. Tradition tells us that it was Abraham’s actions in welcoming the strangers into his home that brought about the blessing of Isaac’s birth. Thus, had Abraham not welcomed the three visitors, the Akeidah story, nor the blessings that followed from it including the eventual birth of Jacob, ancestor of all of the Children of Israel: none of that would have happened. The very existence of our people is rooted in welcoming the stranger into our midst.

The story of the Ushpizin, the holy visitors, is one of the traditional themes of the holiday of Sukkot. It is customary to invite guests to dine in your Sukkah. Some of you may even have seen the Israeli film, Ushpizin, about an Ultra-Orthodox couple that receives some very un-Orthodox visitors into their Sukkah, who test their faith. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it.

I have talked extensively about the need to welcome all members of interfaith families into our community. Recently, I have talked about the Reform Jewish views as well as my own, toward Gays and Lesbians and same sex unions. The ways in which we as Jews welcome these groups differs from movement to movement and from congregation to congregation. You may know that I have also worked with the Sudanese community in Des Moines over the past four years attempting to bring attention to the ongoing crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, where hundreds of thousands have died in recent years. Our community, Jews and non-Jews, has made an effort to reach out to the Sudanese here in Des Moines in order to help them acclimate to Iowa and attempted to lobby our state and federal governments hoping to bring more refugees to Iowa.

There are hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees that have fled the fighting in Sudan. Many have gone to Egypt and no small number are looking toward the Promised Land as their destination.

In a recent article, published in Israeli newspapers, Aliza Olmert, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s wife, wrote about the journey of the multitude of Sudanese Muslim refugees trying to cross the Egyptian border into Israel.

She went to interview the people and even visited the Darfur region of Sudan to learn about their suffering firsthand, to understand the difficulties that Israel is facing in coping with their arrival, and to perhaps help it to face those difficulties better.

Here is the situation she describes:

There are those who warn of some 3 million illegal residents in Egypt getting ready to come to Israel. A payment of $1,500 for a man and $750 for the woman will get you across the border, from Cairo to Philadelphi, the border between Egypt and Israel.

You’re certainly not the first who hopes to swap a $50 a month salary in Cairo for a $1,000 one in Eilat.

When you get to the Egyptian border they will fire a few warning shots in the distance. Don’t worry about it; it’s just a little commotion as you cross the wire fence. Then dash across the few meters between the Third World and a country party to the refugee treaty. A few more steps and you’ve crossed into ‘The Land of Peace’ – as the Eritrean refugee caught last night by IDF forces called it.

Now all you have left to do is wait. The IDF vehicle has already been alerted to the scene ever since the border cameras picked up signs of suspicious movement. The Israeli soldier who will determine that you are not smuggling arms will then give you a drink of water and hold your baby while you clamber onto your ride to the Gozal encampment-- a few dusty prefabricated structures.

A payment of $750 for a woman to cross the border (Photo: AFP)

The soldiers entrusted with guarding this stretch of the border aren’t prepared for hosting duties. Certainly not for people so weary and tired they can’t seem to even look at you. The country lacks the billions needed to fence the Philadelphi route. The porous borders of a developed country are an impossible temptation and a solider tending to refugees is distracted from his original mission.

Those caught tonight stretch out on the floor of an office cleared of its furniture, makeshift partitions divide between a group of laborers from Eritrea to a family – father, mother and two children – who escaped the genocide in Darfur.

The sharp odor of sweat permeates the room. It’s hot, stuffy and frightening. The family covers itself in military blankets. The father’s feet stick out, his soles scarred. His beautiful wife sits beside him and holds the girl, the boy wheezes in his sleep. The father tells me in English of the Janjaweed who burned their village. Of the family members who perished there.
The Israeli soldier will determine your fate (Photo: Meir Azoulai)

The fate of the people that Aliza Olmert met will be decided by a UN expert. He is the one charged with verifying their story, with determining whether they are deserving of refugee status.

Yet Israel only knows how to handle refugees that enter the country through normal channels, whose settlement is paid for by international organizations in the Jewish community, and who may be assimilated into Israeli culture most easily through Jewish institutions and schools. It has no national organization, no national institutions to handle refugees simply crossing the border in order to find safety.

Just the thought of Muslims fleeing to Israel as a safe haven is somewhat amusing. Here are black African Muslims fleeing persecution by other Muslims by going to the only Jewish nation in the world, one created as a safe haven for Jews fleeing persecution and genocide, and whose very existence continues to be threatened. Israel is The Land of Peace, not only for Jews, but for Muslims.

The Israeli army, for all of its expertise in military concerns, has no idea how to deal with refugees. It has in the past literally unloaded a jeep with freed refugees in the Beersheba marketplace because it believed that the other authorities should be handling the refugees and not the military. This has led to heated arguments between local municipalities and governmental agencies about who should be dealing with the refugees and as in the case of some refugees from Sudan, resulted in Israeli non-governmental organizations taking over their care.
A modern exodus. Mother and child in the Rose Garden, Jerusalem (Photo: amir Cohen)

Israel can most certainly not take it hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees. It cannot even take in tens of thousands of Sudanese refugees. But, as Aliza Olmert pointed out, “sending a Sudanese back to Sudan after he has visited Israel, an enemy nation, is tantamount to a death sentence.” Egypt, meanwhile, has even shot Sudanese attempting to cross the border into Israel from Egypt in order to discourage others from entering Egypt to do so.

'We must be compassionate' (Photo: AP)

This New Year, Israel is dealing with continuing Qassam missile fire from Gaza into Sderot, the Iranian nuclear threat, belligerent rhetoric being exchanged between Israel and Syria, Hamas continuing to challenge for control of the Palestinian Authority, as well as the fortification of the north by Hizballah--and even under all of this threat, Israel was the safehaven sought out by Muslims fleeing genocide in the Muslim world.

Perhaps, the story of Abraham and the visitors is indeed appropriate to this story. Through no small effort, the nation of Israel came into being and like the life of Isaac, it all too often seems to hang on a thread. But in welcoming the strangers, we are told that Abraham and Sarah were blessed with Isaac and because of that the people and nation of Israel lives. How can we not embrace and welcome those fleeing from genocide?

Israel is indeed doing exactly that. The refugees are coming. Muslims fleeing to the Jewish state for safety.

Could it be that this should not be so strange to us? Could it be that long ago our ancestors understood what we today struggle to understand?

Perhaps we have had the answer for more than 2,500 years. In the words of Isaiah, “As for the strangers… let them rejoice in My House of Prayer… For My House shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Is. 56:6-7).

Then again, that answer is found in the very document creating the nation of Israel. The Declaration Of TheEstablishment Of The State Of Israel includes the following paragraph:

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel.

The prophetic voice drives us to Tikkun Olam, to the repair of the world and to Gimilut Hasadim, to acts of kindness that better our world.

History has taught us that the nations of the world will all too quickly turn a blind eye to the suffering of peoples threatened with genocide. Our people died by the millions because they were turned away.

In the words of Rabbi Hillel, the practice of Judaism is based upon a single rule: Do not do unto others as you would have them not do unto you, all the rest is commentary, go and learn it. We would not have them turn us away in our flight. We cannot turn them away in theirs.

When a refugee from Darfur crosses the border with his wife and children and the Israeli soldier asks, “Who will take care of these people in their time of need?” Do you know what the answer is?

You and me. All of us. The descendants of Isaac, who Tradition tells us would not have been born if not for Abraham’s generosity toward Three Strangers. Israel must meet this challenge and we must aid it to do so. Israel understands this and is trying its best, we must do likewise to help through our generosity and our political voice on its behalf.

May the new year see an end to the violence in Darfur and may it see the dawn of Shalom for Israel and the Middle East. Let it be for us a year filled with Gimilut Hasadim, acts of kindness, and may we, like Abraham, be blessed because we welcome and bless others.

L’shanah Tovah Tikateivu.

May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year.

The following is additional information concerning NGOs that are involved:

Shalom All,

Here is a good discussion of the moral/ethical issues faced by Israel in dealing with the Sudanese refugees. The army has as of now said that any refugees fleeing from Darfur specifically will be admitted, but those coming for economic reasons primarily will not. This is likely to be a temporary solution since Israel cannot possibly admit tens of thousands of refugees fleeing from Darfur either:

This article deals with the educational solutions currently:

The most important NGO helping the Sudanese however is Magen David Adom. MDA helps migrants of all kinds from the moment they cross the border. Many are in very poor health and MDA takes care of their medical needs. MDA right now has organized teams to be sent at a moment's notice to meet migrants to which they are alerted by the IDF. MDA has also provided supplies for schools, jobs, housing, etc...

Please see the Magen David Adom website for more information and to make donations .

Other organizations that are helping Sudanese in Israel include Rabbis for Human Rights and Physicians for Human Rights. Also Hotline, which is an organization helping migrant workers in Israel: .

The Overwhelming Nature of Nature: Our Response to Disaster

Rosh Hashanah 2005-5766

The Overwhelming Nature of Nature: Our Response to Disaster

It is fortunately a rare occasion in our modern world that we get a chance to experience a disaster of “biblical” proportions. Events that wipe out entire cities and displace hundreds of thousands of people do not occur often. That the death total from Hurricane Katrina does not number well into the thousands or even the tens of thousands is a testament to the advances of modernity. Yet, the event itself, the destruction that it brought not only through the extensive and dramatic flooding of New Orleans, but through the force of wind and the power of waves along the entire gulf coast, demands that we remember that though humanity has become powerful, the forces of nature are vastly more so. In the past 30 years, only a handful of natural events have brought about these feelings. For those in Iowa, for certain, the events of 1993 come to mind. I would add the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, the Tsunami in Southeast Asia in 2004 and to a lesser extent Hurricanes Hugo in 1989 and Andrew in 1992.

The views of Judaism on such disasters and how we should respond to them differ dramatically from one to another, but all of them teach us something that can help us through the tragedy.

The story of Noah was written from the perspective that God causes all things to happen. Natural disasters are, as the insurance companies have traditionally called them, “Acts of God.”

Flood Story
Genesis 7
11. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.
12. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth.
13. And God said to Noah, The end of all flesh has come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

God brought a great flood to cover the earth and when the flood had ended, God made a promise to Noah.

Genesis 9
15. And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

Humanity’s sinfulness angers God and God causes disasters to happen because of the sinfulness of the people affected.

We also have the words of the prophet Jeremiah in this light:

Jeremiah 4:20 – 27
I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was waste and void;And the Heavens, they had no light.I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled.And the hills moved to and fro.
I beheld, and, lo, there were no people,And all the birds of the heavens were fled.I beheld and, lo, the fruitful field was a wilderness,And all the cities thereof were broken down
At the presence of the Lord,And before his fierce anger….
For thus says the Lord:"The whole land shall be desolate."

When people in New Orleans asked, “Why did this happen here?” Surely there were some who thought about the fact that most of the city is below sea level and lying in a not unusual path for a hurricane to follow. Others no doubt believed that the events were entirely random, that Hurricane Katrina, followed by Hurricane Rita, simply happened to both devastate Louisiana. Yet, others wonder what they did to anger God.

There are many out there who see what happened to New Orleans as punishment for the sins of its inhabitants, particularly those in the French Quarter. Don’t ask them why the French Quarter was spared while so many churches across the entire gulf were destroyed. Others believe that New Orleans was punished for the sins of America around the world.

Liberal minded people in general and Reform Jews in particular find this kind of thinking to be entirely wrongheaded. We do not agree with the implications of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah either, but that story has an added dimension. In it, unlike in the Flood story, there is an argument about the punishment. Abraham’s discusses with God the righteousness of collective punishment.
Sodom and Gamorrah
23. Abraham drew near, and said, Will you also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
24. Perhaps there are only fifty righteous inside the city; will you also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous who are in it?
25. Be it far from you to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked; and that the righteous should be as the wicked, be it far from you; Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

At this time of year, when we think of all of our faults and pray to God as Judge on high asking forgiveness for our wrong actions and blessings for the coming year, the last thing that we want to happen is not only to be punished, but to be punished for someone else’s sins! We take comfort in God’s reply to Abraham, “I will not do it for the sake of the fifty righteous” and the continuing willingness for mercy for the sake of even ten.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah would have us believe that God might have refrained, if God had wished, but decided to go ahead with the punishment. The story of Jonah, read on Yom Kippur, reinforces that possibility since it tells us that God chose not to destroy Ninevah. God, despite the sinfulness of Ninevah, turned away punishment because they changed their ways.

For many, the story of Jonah offers solace. However, if we do not believe in a God who exacts punishment of this type, these stories do not help us understand God’s role in disasters. There are other views of God that do help. Some in our Tradition see the role of God in a disaster as helping the survivors, not as causing the destruction or the suffering for any reason. As we see in First Kings:

There was a great and mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of God; but God was not in the wind. After the wind- an earthquake; but God was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake-fire; but God was not in the fire. After the fire- a still, small voice. (I Kings 19:11-12)

According to First Kings, God did not cause the destruction, but is in the still small voice, that is present after it. That is the perspective of Reform Judaism. As we witness the suffering and the destruction, as we respond to the needs of others, that still small voice within us urges us to reach out, give help, bring joy and elevate spirits.

As we enter the High Holidays and particularly as we endure the day of fasting for Yom Kippur, let us think about all those who are less fortunate that us, those who are poor, homeless, and suffering. As we fast, let us remember the words of the prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 58
This is the fast I desireTo unlock the fetters of wickednessUntie the cords of lawlessnessTo let the oppressed go freeBreak off every yoke;It is to share your food with the wretchedand take the poor into your home;When you see the naked, clothe them.and do not ignore your own kin. Then will your light burst through like the dawnAnd your healing will spring up quickly[When] your higher-self leads youthe weight of God is behind you.Thus [now], when you call out, God will answer;When you call out, God will say:Hineni, here I am.

At this time of year when we are particularly desirous of God’s answer to our pleas, may we strive to make ourselves beacon lights that burst through the darkness of suffering, bringing light into the darkness of those deluged by misfortune. When they call out, let us answer. Let us reach out a helping hand to them and say, “Hineni, here I am.”

There is a story that has appeared in many forms over the years that is particularly appropriate in this light and lends a bit of humor to our serious topic. It is called, “God will save me.”

God will save me- Anonymous
There was a man whose farm was located on the banks of a flood-swollen river. As the water rose, a neighbor drove up in a Jeep, urging him to leave before the farm was flooded.
Thinking that God would spare his home, the man said confidently "Oh, no, God will save me."
The water rose higher, and the man was forced to move into the second story of the farmhouse. A police boat soon came, and the officers called for the man to hurry and get into their boat.
"Oh, no, that won't be necessary." Thinking that the floodwaters would abate, the man insisted. "God will save me."
Finally the house was completely engulfed in water, and a Coast Guard helicopter swooped in to rescue the man, now perched on the roof. Again he refused, incredulous that God had allowed the flood to reach this high and sure that they would soon go away. Just then, a huge wave of water swept over the house, and the man drowned.
When he got to heaven, he stormed at God, asking WHY God had let him die when his faith had been so strong.
"What do you mean?" asked God. "I sent a Jeep, a boat, and a helicopter ... and you wouldn't budge!"
The story uses humor to teach us a very important lesson. When God answers the pleas of the suffering and says, “Hineni, here I am,” those words are often spoken through our lips or through our actions. It is we who must act. God doesn’t bring the jeep, the boat, or the helicopter. We do. It is we who reach out and perform acts of Tikkun Olam, repairing our world. We are the ones who need to provide food, clothing, and shelter. We are the ones who work to bring those in danger to safety. God helps us to do so.

When we say, “Hineni, here I am,” God acts through us.

What do we do when the challenge that faces us is beyond any that we could complete on our own?

Rabbi Tarfon tells us in Pirke Avot,
You are not required to complete the task,
But neither are you free to abstain from it.

It is not up to us to feed everyone, to clothe everyone, to house everyone. But neither can we do nothing at all. We must act, we must help, even if what help we can offer seems insignificant. Together, all of our insignificant offers become something greater, something very substantial, something that can complete the task.

It need not be a terrible tragedy on a national level or international level that urges us to say “Hineni.” Let it be nothing more than that still small voice that is present when there is someone suffering. Let it be only a whisper that compels us to help and let us shout aloud, “Hineni, here I am” ready to help and our world will be a far better place.

Khein Yehi Ratson! May it be God’s will.

Shanah Tova Tikateivu, May you be inscribed for a good new year.

Cover the Unisured Week

Words for Cover the Uninsured Week – Interfaith Luncheon
April 27, 2006

Sometimes, it is easy for us to separate the workings of our faith from the struggles of society. It is easy for us to put blinders by our eyes so that we only see what lies directly before us and if problems should happen to not lie in our path, well… we have problems of our own.

Yet, removing our blinders allows us to see that all of the things around us are part of our path. We cannot act as if we may never need to turn or that our path will never intersect with others. We must be aware.

When we turn our heads and even our bodies, looking not only ahead of us, but to the sides and even behind us, we may see that others do not move so easily along their paths. Obstacles that are easy for us to overcome may even be impossible for them to overcome on their own. It is incumbent upon us help them.

In Jewish Scriptures we find directives to act:

"Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself."

"Thou shalt not remain idle while thy neighbor bleeds."

So many are bleeding. So many struggling without help, without love.

There is another directive in Judaism which is called in Hebrew, Tikkun Olam. It means “The Repair of the World.” Our tradition teaches us that the world is not perfect, it is not as it should be, it is like my car, which had to be towed to the car dealer this morning, broken. Our job as Jews and as righteous human beings is to labor to repair it bit by bit.

We are told by the rabbis of old some advice which I leave you with here today, “It is not up to us as individuals to finish the work, but neither can we desist from it.” We must do our part, even if it is but a little bit, to help.

Thank You.

We Cannot Stand Idly By

We Cannot Stand Idly By
April 28, 2006
Rabbi David Jay Kaufman

This week is Cover the Uninsured Week. As a leader in the Jewish community, I was asked to help bring the Jewish perspective to the interfaith religious organizational programming events. I attended the press conference on Wednesday at which our Lt. Governor Sally Pederson announced that Governor Vilsack had proclaimed this week to be Cover the Uninsured Week in Iowa. At the press conference, I was joined by two members of Temple B’nai Jeshurun, Josh Mandelbaum, who was there as a policy advisor to Governor Vilsack and Dr. Steve Eckstat, who is a leader in seeking ways to provide insurance for lower income adults and is a leader of Hawk-I, the health insurance program seeking to insure children across Iowa. We heard about the tremendous need to improve our outreach to the uninsured nationally, even as we were told about the marvelous programs that are already available in our state.

Nationally, the problem of the uninsured is growing worse. The federal government estimates that nearly 46 million Americans lack coverage of any kind for an entire year. Other research shows that tens of millions more Americans go without health coverage for shorter periods of time.
Recent Census Bureau data demonstrates that the problem of the uninsured continues to worsen. According to figures released in August 2005, 45.8 million people—15.7 percent of the total U.S. population—were uninsured in 2004, up slightly from 15.6 percent in the previous year.

The percentage of the non-elderly population, those under 65 who are eligible for Medicare, that is uninsured has climbed steadily from 15.9 percent in 1994 to 17.8 percent in 2004.

Yesterday, I spoke at the luncheon sponsored by Cover the Uninsured. Along with me were Imam Dremali, Rev. Keith Ratliff, Rev. Mark Stringer and Rev. Bill Stuart. All of us recognize the profound problems created by rising healthcare costs, skyrocketing insurance costs, pre-existing condition riders, high deductibles and the fact that for many adults in our society, all of these make health insurance either impossible to afford at all or impossible to use if they have it. Many people do not seek the medical care that they need because they do not have insurance or because they cannot afford the deductible if they do have it.

Sometimes, it is easy for us to separate the workings of our faith from the struggles of society. It is easy for us to put blinders by our eyes so that we only see what lies directly before us and if problems should happen to not lie in our path, well… we have problems of our own.

Yet, removing our blinders allows us to see that all of the things around us are part of our path. We cannot act as if we may never need to turn or that our path will never intersect with others. We must be aware.

When we turn our heads and even our bodies, looking not only ahead of us, but to the sides and even behind us, we may see that others do not move so easily along the path. Obstacles that are easy for us to overcome may even be impossible for them to overcome on their own. It is incumbent upon us help them.

In Jewish Scriptures we find directives to act:

"Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself."

"Thou shalt not remain idle while thy neighbor bleeds."

So many are bleeding. So many struggling without help.

Our tradition teaches us that the world is not perfect, it is not as it should be, it is like my car yesterday, which had to be towed to the car dealer, broken. Our job as Jews and as righteous human beings is to labor to repair it bit by bit.

We are told by the rabbis of old some advice which applies not only to the problem of the uninsured in our nation, but to many other problems facing our world, “It is not up to us as individuals to finish the work, but neither can we desist from it.” We must do our part, even if it is but a little bit, to help.

As many of you know, I have also been involved in working to find ways to save lives of those suffering in Sudan and in refugee camps outside of its borders. This weekend, Sunday, is national Save Darfur Day and there is a major demonstration and march planned in Washington D.C.

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is a national partner in the effort to end the crisis in Sudan and bring Shalom to those who are suffering. One of my rabbinical school classmates, Rabbi Michael Namath, is the Program Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Just this morning, he joined a group of people including leaders of other national organizations and even several members of Congress in a peaceful demonstration in front of the Sudanese Embassy and was arrested.

Michael and other leaders were calling for increased action to stop the genocidal violence and man-made humanitarian disaster occurring in the western region of Darfur. In a statement issued after his arrest, Rabbi Namath said, "I participated in this act of civil disobedience because my Jewish values teach me that I cannot stand idly by and watch as the blood of my neighbor is spilt." It is unfortunate that there are so many things in our world for which that statement is appropriate, so many people who are suffering and need our help.

My classmate quoted, in a statement issued by the Religious Action Center after his arrest and subsequent release, from the words of Dr. Arthur Hertzberg, a great scholar of Judaism who has recently passed away, and whose thoughts are very appropriate.

Dr. Hertzberg taught that in the Talmud, the rabbis concluded that Jews could not be secure and live happy lives unless the rest of the world had risen beyond its wars and hungers. To this train of thought the rabbis added that the true woes of the world are those which affect everyone.

The problems of the world are our problems. We must work to bring healthcare to the nearly 46 million people in this country without it and we must continue to raise awareness of this humanitarian crisis that has left as many as 400,000 innocent civilians dead and over 2 million others homeless.

I join and even help to lead organizations working to solve these problems because my Jewish values teach me that I cannot stand idly by and watch as the blood of my neighbor is spilt. Why? Because the true woes of the world are those which affect everyone and because while “It is not up to us as individuals to finish the work, neither can we desist from it.” We must do our part, even if it is but a little bit, to help.

This Shabbat, as we consider the suffering caused by the crisis in Sudan and the suffering caused by a lack of health insurance for millions in this country, may we think of ways in which we can help to raise awareness and even, perhaps, to help to relieve a bit of the suffering, repairing a bit of our all too broken world.

Shabbat Shalom.