D’Var Torah – MAZON Board Meeting – April 25, 2010
This week’s double Parsha, AHArei Mot Kedoshim, highlights G-d’s expectations for
holiness through commandments of rituals, civility and ethics. In 2 specific verses, G-d
instructs us to “leave the corners of our fields” and “love thy neighbor as yourself”
defining the moral and social norms of the Jewish people. These 2 commandments,
although similar in message to help those in need, differ in style – one asking us to refrain
from activity and the other encouraging us to act in order to love.
The first verses, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way
to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick
your vineyard bare or gather the fallen fruit from of your vineyard; you shall leave them
for the poor and the stranger; I, the Lord am your G-d.”
With this statement, G-d commands us to care for the needy by prohibiting action – by
not reaping, by not gathering. This describes a social legislation – the agricultural
guidelines that G-d blesses as a sacred act to protect the poor. Inactivity becomes the
social norm for compliance. In today’s society, inactivity may reflect indifference or
apathy. Social norms or laws are achieved through advocacy by members of our
community. Standing idly by no longer meets the needs of the impoverished or hungry.
Our Child Nutrition Reauthorization Campaign and yearly “Corner of our Fields” High
Holiday Hunger Appeal are 2 examples that require strong and purposeful action by each
Secondly, the verse, “Love your fellow (neighbor) as yourself” is a fundamental principle
of the Torah and deeply rooted in MAZON’s mission. Although stated simply, many
questions arise on how we can be commanded to love. Love is an emotion but how do
we translate that emotion into actions that sustain our society? Are we only superficially
interested in the welfare of our neighbor, wishing for wealth, honor and wisdom, or do
we have a deeper concern for them to be an equal to ourselves? Equality requires
attention and selflessness. When we love our neighbor as ourselves, we need to go
beyond wishing them well to actively promoting their well being. Jewish tradition
challenges us to better this world by treating everyone as we would want to be treated.
The food pantries and emergency assistance programs provide our neighbors with
immediate aid while long term solutions are being addressed to break the cycle of poverty
and hunger. Programs that provide education, financial stability, and health promotion
strengthen our commitment to the community but we must first look within ourselves to
be able to look outward to others. Each of us must strive to provide equality through our
actions and deeds.
So as we meet here today, let us keep in mind these specific commandments for
providing for the hungry and respecting and loving others as we would want for
ourselves. These commandments have and will continue to guide us in our work with
MAZON as it has guided the Jewish people for generations before us. As we embark on
our 25th year of hunger relief work, let us remember that we are all volunteers - but G-d’s
commandments are not voluntary. We must each act to ensure a better community and
world for our neighbors.