Saturday, April 23, 2005

Closer to G-d in Deed

Yesterday morning, Faithful Progressive had the distinct pleasure to awaken to a slew of comments on his post about John Kerry's statement on faith & values. Much of the debate in the comments was related to whether faith alone is enough for salvation (among Christians) or whether faith must be coupled with deeds. The answer is abundantly clear in Judaism, the impact of one's actions (especially one's treatment of others) is a major theme not only in holidays but in daily life. This week's Torah portion (Leviticus 16:2-34) contains an extremely detailed description of Yom Kippur (yeah, I know, Pesach starts tonight so the reference may seem odd to you but this really is applicable). Yom Kippur, as you probably know, is the day we atone for our sins; on the days leading up to it, we try to make things right (or as right as they can be) by apologizing to those we've hurt and accepting apologies from those expressing remorse for their actions towards us. Deeds matter, not just actions related to sins against G-d but our actions towards others.

Our actions are an insight to our hearts & souls which reveal the sincerity of our faith. Yom Kippur is only one day of the year, but that doesn't mean we should wait to change our ways and make amends (where necessary) on an ongoing basis as we are judged on an ongoing basis. In a summary to this week's Torah portion, Rabbi Daniel Bronstein of Social warns us that "no matter how charismatic, no matter how skilled, and no matter how successful in serving a cause--a leader's ethics matter." Tom DeLay told Tony Snow that the ethics probe into his activities has brought him "Closer to G-d." As Rabbi Charles P. Sherman indicates in his commentary on the portion, honest introspection and resolve to change (not scapegoating) is what can truly bring us closer to G-d.

As I mentioned earlier, Pesach (Passover) begins at sundown tonight. The first night (first 2 nights for Orthodox & Conservative Jews outside of Israel) we have a Seder (literally "order") which is a Feast of Freedom. We begin the Seder with the words:

    "All who are hungry - come and eat. All who are needy - come and join the Pesach celebration."
    • In the United States alone, 13 million children live in households where people have to skip meals or eat less to make ends meet. That means one in ten households in the U.S. are living with hunger or are at risk of hunger. []
    • Every 3.6 seconds another person dies of starvation and the large majority are children under the age of 5. []
    Those who are less fortunate will not be helped by those words alone, they cannot eat our sentiments. Mazon is a Jewish response to hunger that works to help people in need regardless of their background, the organization has an annual Passover Project that is coordinated with synagogues and social outreach groups; World Manna is another organization working to end world hunger; and America's Second Harvest is the nation's food bank network. Please consider donating to one of these (or another) organization. You can also help by going to the Hunger Site, click daily to give a cup of fortified food to a hungry person.

    I'll address the second sentence and the incongruity of the current political climate (especially the timing of the inappropriately titled "Justice Sunday") tomorrow. In the meantime, please go here to voice your concern (I adapted my statement in Faith Forward's Affirmation project and plugged it into the text they provided) and/or check out Social Justice Sunday on Building the Beloved Community.

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