Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Do not harden your heart - Thoughts on the 8th Morning of Passover (a Facebook status post) - April 22, 2014

Hi - my name is Larry...I am a Reform Rabbi who observes Passover for 8 days instead of 7, as does my congregation. So, as I eat my Matzo Brei for breakfast this morning before I go to Temple for our service for the last morning of Pesach, I am thinking about the reading from the Torah I will be doing this morning. Moving out of slavery to freedom, even for our ancestors, was no guarantee of a life of comfort. The verses in Deuteronomy 15 that I will read first say, "There need not be needy people in your land," but go on to admit that "there will never cease to be needy ones in your land." It follows with this command, "Therefore, open your hand to the poor and needy in your land." We look at unemployment levels and congratulate ourselves when they decrease, even though many people still don't have jobs. We think we are making progress when poverty rates go down, even as many people are still living in dire conditions in our country and around the world. This section in Deuteronomy also says, "do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman." That sounds a lot like Pharaoh with a hardened heart against the slavery which he used for his own purposes. There may be many views on how best to open our hand to people in need. This passage says: "Be aware! Don't stand by! Do something to help!" Maimonides said that the highest degree of tzedakah, righteous giving, is to help people be self-supporting. Private giving, communal help (which can include government, which is part of community), teaching new skills - there are all sorts of ways to create a safety net. So this is what the 8th day of Passover has brought me - this reminder to keep my own eyes and hands open and to help others do the same. Perhaps, then, we will truly be free.

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