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[KE CyberTorah] Feeding the Hungry

Feeding the Hungry

Over the last few weeks, I have suggested two of four steps towards a Heshbon Hanefesh project. Heshbon Hanefesh is the weighing of the soul, the self-analysis, that God invites us into as we approach the Holidays. The first step I suggested was an honest accounting of the self. We must judge impartially, meaning we make no excuses, offer no rationalizations AND that we notice and account for our good deeds and actions as well as the problematic ones. Second, I suggested a project of gratitude. By noticing the blessing in each day, event, or moment, we lay a fertile ground of energy and hope from within which meaningful change may occur. 

Today, I want to offer a third step: care for others. The risk of a Heshbon Hanefesh project is that it becomes self focused and then self centered. Recently I saw research that in some cases mindfulness practice increases selfishness. If one engages in meditation focused on breathing and letting go of extraneous thoughts, there is a genuine risk that the exercise never connects beyond the self. Meditation, and this weighing of the soul project, must also look deeply outside the ego self to the world as a whole. 

Before we ask how to change ourselves or the world, I suggest that we take compassionate action. Kol Emeth has a holiday food drive this year. We have large bins just outside the KE gate to collect groceries and food of all kinds. Jewish Family and Children’s Services will then distribute that food to people in need. Please bring them by anytime, and in particular before any service that you attend at Kol Emeth this holiday season. Similarly, we are raising money for Second Harvest, the largest distributor of food to those in need in our area. 

In ancient times, that care was built into the economy. Farmers were required to leave the edges of their field and the grain that fell when being gathered for those in need. The hungry would participate in the harvest and walk away with food that would support them through the season. Farmers were donating about 3% of their fields to those in need and in this way made sure no one went hungry.

Today is a time of much greater relative affluence. We all have food and grocery budgets. Few of us have ever experienced real hunger, the kind that comes from missing a meal and then not knowing when your next meal will come. Yet there are tens of thousands of people in Santa Clara County who experience this kind of food insecurity on a regular basis.

I urge you to look at your total expense for food this year. Then imagine: what if I emulated my biblical ancestors and gave 3% of my food budget to those in need? What if I donated 3% of that food budget to Second Harvest as part of my own process of self-analysis this year? Carol and I do this each month with a recurring donation. We want each bite we eat to reflect an act of caring for those who may not know from where their next bite will come.

This third of four Heshbon Hanefesh steps will give us the awareness and compassion we need for the next and final step, the step in which we begin to contemplate real change in the self. This step will ready us for Yom Kippur, in honesty, in gratitude, and in compassion for the other.

I wish you a Shana Tova, a new year filled with joy, gratitude, and meaning!
Rabbi David Booth

Wed, June 19 2024 13 Sivan 5784