04 May 2013


We need 27.

27 people is all out of synagogue community of nearly 1000 families and a broader community of thousands--to volunteer for one night of cooking a meal and sleeping over in our CBE Homeless Shelter between May 20 and June 27.

27 people.  We can do it!

This past Shabbat on both Friday evening and Saturday morning, I shared our synagogue's lessons learned from our volunteer efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  Since early November more than 2500 unique volunteers have cooked in our kitchen and delivered food and needed supplies to the thousands of those in need at the most extreme borders of our city.  From Red Hook to Coney Island to the Rockaways, we lived out the Torah's teaching that "if thy brother that dwelleth by thee grow poor," we are obligated to share food, drink, apparel and shelter as if it were our own lives we were satisfying.  The Sages were clear that a just society recognizes that "if you sleep on a featherbed, he ought not to sleep on a bed of straw."

While CBE's home in Park Slope was spared the devastation of Sandy, we learned by coming face to face with the perimeters of the city that poverty and inequality are real issues involving real people demanding our substantive and meaningful response.  In a word, we really are responsible for one another.  As the Talmud put it:  כל הקונה עבד עברי כקונה אדון לעצמו--he who acquires a servant acquires a master over himself.

The biblical critic Nehama Leibowitz points out, in a brilliant re-reading of this text, that embedded in the Talmud's concern for a humane attitude toward the Bible's laws concerning slavery are the seeds of progress which would eventually lead to the banning of the institution altogether.  When the laws mitigate toward a humane treatment of a slaves in an ancient institution, is it any wonder that the logical conclusion is the dissolving of the institution altogether?

The limits of the logic of justice?  Equality in society.

We move closer to this ideal in our own time when we take responsibility for the care, feeding and shelter of homeless men in Brooklyn.  Twelve men will be sleeping at CBE from May 19-June 27 and we will learn alot about their lives, their struggles and triumphs, their failures and successes, and be brought close to poverty's face in order to understand its dimensions and strengthen one in another in its alleviation.

Moses, God's messenger, in one of Judaism's most vitally important social justice teachings in the entire Torah, taught the people that "the poor shalt never cease out of the land; therefore I command thee, saying, 'Thou shalt surely open thy hand unto the poor and needy brother, in thy land.'"

There you have it.

We are commanded to do it.  So let's do it.

We need 27.

You can sign up HERE.

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