Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
Across the world yesterday or today, Jews celebrate Simchat Torah, the conclusion of the Festival of Sukkot. Simchat Torah is our day when we roll the Torah from the very end of Deuteronomy to the very beginning of the Book of Genesis. For many, it symbolizes new beginnings, new opportunities and new ideas for living life to its fullest. Perhaps Simchat Torah can serve as the symbol of a new cycle, a new year of learning, of stretching and of ‘living new’ and ‘acting different’.
This year, our community embraced a new idea, something seemingly ironic, or perhaps the perfect activity for the perfect day. Makom NY is a brand new model of Jewish community, seeking new ways of ‘being Jewish’. On Yom Kippur afternoon, we had over 100 people attend our Yom Kippur Afternoon Mitzvah Project. Placed strategically between the children’s service and the afternoon service, families and individuals of all ages and backgrounds came together to bag meals to feed over 10,00 individuals.
We worked in partnership with the organization Stop Hunger Now, an organization that gets food and life-saving aid to the world’s most vulnerable people, and works to end global hunger. They set up tables in the middle of the social hall, in partnership with a team of able bodies from our group, and as each of us entered the hall, we put on gloves and a mesh cap, and got to work on an assembly line. In less than two hours, our group bagged over 10,000 meals to be sent to Haiti, where people are starving every day.
We worked in teams of 5, and each person had a job, whether it was weighing the rice, sealing the bag, inserting the proteins, or adding the seasonings. Every time we closed a box, the ‘box table’ screamed in joy, and the energy was contagious. Each time we hit 1000 meals, someone was able to hit the gong, to show our progress.
That very morning, I spoke about the importance of taking action, of making our voices heard and caring about something, anything that would help our greater world. That afternoon, we put our words into action. The response from the crowd was overwhelming; not only were we over-subscribed for the program, but everyone who was there, from the 5 year olds to the seniors was engaged and excited to be doing something so meaningful on a day when Jews are directed to focus on more spiritual and worldly aspects of our lives, rather than the mundane things, like food.
In many ways, this was a strange activity for Yom Kippur afternoon. We were working with food on a fast day; but I assure you – the dried rice did not make us hungry. Actually, the activity allowed the day to pass even faster, and with a greater purpose. One of our teens told her mom that she would not complain about fasting anymore, because she now understands that some people are barely eating anything, everyday. Feeding while fasting was a great way to engage in a holy act, and it brought out both regular Yom Kippur worship-goers as well as people who never go to services on Yom Kippur. A great new beginning.
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.