Thursday, September 01, 2005

Dayenu: I've been passed over, but others aren't so lucky

I've found something to irk me more than politicizing disease: policitizing the charity and human kindness of disaster relief. Like Albert, I don't see any reason to turn fundraising efforts for Katrina disaster relief into some game of political one upmanship. The gulf coast of this country now closely resembles the conditions of third world nations; the difference between what the folks down there are facing and people in impoverished countries is that we have an opportunity, a responsibility and the ability to make the conditions in the gulf coast temporary and to make a significant difference in both the immediate as well as long term future.

Everyone in the affected areas lost a lot but, as we all know, those with the least to spare usually feel the effects of such a disaster much more significantly than those who are more financially stable. Those who were already at risk are the ones who could not evacuate, turning that risk into a muggy, wet & potentially deadly reality.

Last April, I posted about spiritual and physical hunger in context with Passover. While what I posted then is applicable every day, the importance however, is magnified in the face of the effects of Katrina and bears repeating today

"All who are hungry - come and eat. All who are needy - come and join the Pesach celebration."

There are different kinds of hunger. The text here refers to physical hunger and a need for food and water for sustenance, I referred to this yesterday. In my opinion, the most interesting and special things about Judaism is our idea of tzedakah. The word tzedakah is used to mean charity but it means righteousness; our understanding of righteousness and the dictates of our religion makes them more of a distributive justice, which lies at the heart of all mitzvot. We have what we have by the grace of G-d, but we do not own it. We have not only responsiblities to ourselves and our families, but to others (including strangers):
Genesis 18: 18-19 "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just*, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him."
*tzedakah u-mishpat (right & just)

We sing Dayenu at the Seder because each of the gifts G-d bestowed upon us would have been enough individually. Each additional gift reminds us of His generosity and grace. Anything G-d does for us is enough and we owe it to Him and the world to show our appreciation by doing for others as He has done by us. We can sing Dayenu to Him but must not think we can stop helping others when there is more to be done; we owe no less than to merit to conduct additional feasts of freedom in the future.
You'll find a list of organizations in my right sidebar (just below my profile). If you have not already contributed to a Katrina Disaster Relief Effort, please consider doing so now - every little bit counts and every bit will be greatly appreciated.

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