Rabbis Without Borders
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In Parashat Re’eh, this week’s Torah portion, we’re plainly taught that if we freely give to brothers and sisters who are in need, we, ourselves, will be blessed.
In wondering what this might mean, I realize that I have had just such an experience…
One 4th of July, my husband Ross and I were languishing in our empty nest enjoying the spaciousness of the day, when we got a call from a local shelter where we periodically cooked for and ate with the homeless men who spent their nights there. No one had signed on to cook for the holiday so we looked at one another and shrugged, then made a grocery run, dragged our grill to the site, and created a festive BBQ for 50 men.
At one moment during our preparation of the meal, Ross and I squeezed by one another in the galley kitchen, my husband on his way to the freezer, and I on my way out of the pantry, and as we passed he said: “I love you.”
It was the dearest of moments, and I flushed, understanding that Ross’s expression of affection was precipitated by the way he felt about himself, about us, and our life together in that particular moment in which we were so comfortably engaged in an act of giving. His “I love you” was my blessing, our blessing, the sweetness we were offering to others reflected right back into our relationship.
As we come to the close of this year of shmita, this one-year-in-seven sabbatical of openhanded release, wherein we are more keenly aware that we are merely custodians of all that we have, it feels particularly important to affirm the blessing of open handedness, acknowledging what we gain in the act of giving.
We don’t give for the sake of gratitude. Our tradition’s highest form of tzedakah is anonymous giving that is anonymously received. And still, there is the reward of blessing, the promise that our good will circle back to us as palpable grace.
Perhaps you have had an experience similar to mine, recognition of a blessing you enjoy as the consequence of your generosity. If so, I invite you to share your stories!
As we enter the Days of Awe, it will be lovely to acknowledge more than our sins. Our sins matter, as do our acts of openhanded loving kindness. The energy we offer our world is the energy our world returns to us.
Pronounced: roshe hah-SHAH-nah, also roshe ha-shah-NAH, Origin: Hebrew, the Jewish new year.
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.
Pronounced: yohm KIPP-er, also yohm kee-PORE, Origin: Hebrew, The Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar and, with Rosh Hashanah, one of the High Holidays.