The Jewish month of Elul is in full swing. The High Holy Days are approaching. And, with the passage of these precious days of Elul, we do our best to prepare for the upcoming Days of Awe – Rosh HaShana through Yom Kippur. I know some of us are cooking already. Some of us are taking breathers just to catch up with our spiritual selves. Some of us are working on the physical preparations at the Temple…There are all sorts of ways to gear up for the High Holy Days.
An additional way to prepare for the High Holy Days is to study Torah, and to let it touch our neshama, our inner soul.
Our weekly Torah portion of Ki Tetze includes a magnificent teaching (Deueteronomy 22:3): “Lo Tuchal l’hit’alem [One may not turn a blind eye]” from the losses incurred by our neighbors. This week, we are seeing and hearing about the losses incurred by the victims of hurricane Harvey. We mourn the loss of life and send our prayers and comfort to the families who have lost loved ones. But, the full effects of the hurricane reach much farther than what we have seen so far. Some people are still in danger. Some people are still homeless, and/or dealing with substantial disruption and loss on many levels. Some are our own family members. Some are total strangers. Some are people who are connected with us through social media, or through mutual friends and acquaintances.
“Lo Tuchal l’hit’alem [One may not turn a blind eye].” These words of Torah are a powerful reminder of our obligation to respond.
Just as there are many ways to gear up for the High Holy Days, there are many ways in which may respond to the many losses incurred by the hurricane.
Some have raised the question of whether it is better to respond to Jewish organizations that are collecting donations for Hurricane Relief, or to broader communal relief funds. The truth is there are many ways to respond. The Jewish community in Houston and environs has suffered significant losses. Three synagogues have been affected along with many Jewish families.
While everyone will be served by the donations we make to broader communal relief funds, we should also remember that Rosh HaShana is coming for our Jewish brothers and sisters in those affected areas. The general communal funds will not be able to help with the unique needs of our Jewish communities. In addition to the housing and general needs that we share with all others, synagogue restoration will be needed. Kosher food, siddurim,[prayer books], machzorim [High Holy Day prayer books], chumashim [Books of Torah], and a place to hear the shofar on Rosh HaShana will have to be organized as best as possible.
As we prepare for our High Holy Days, I hope we respond as generously as we can to the needs of our family, our friends, our Jewish community, as well as to the needs of all good people affected by the storm. There is more than one way to respond. Let us not turn a blind eye.
And, may our inner soul, and study of Torah, guide us to act for the benefit of our families, of our friends, of our Jewish communities, as well as for the benefit of all good people.