In recent days, a few things I have been involved with and encountered have lead me to this week’s Shabbat message theme. And that theme, which I first heard from the Board chair at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, back around 1998, was “in chaos, there is opportunity.” For some reason, that idea has always stuck with me and it has fully blossomed within me at this time of our global pandemic. I spoke on this topic a few short days ago to the incoming NowGen Board, a smart, passionate and caring group of young Jewish leaders who are a real “shot in the arm” for this Jewish community. I discussed with them how, when this pandemic emerged in March, my wife and I sort of froze, and we put a halt to things like planned home improvements, a deep-dive into our finances and planning for the future, etc. Like so many, we saw our investments drop 35% in a few short weeks. It was quite terrifying, actually.
But somewhere along the way we have regained our balance, our strength and our fortitude and we have decided to proactively take our lives into our own hands. We are resuming the house project we put on hold, we have pursued investment strategic advice and are making long thought about but not acted upon changes in this area, and we are looking at other things we had been holding off on. And you know what? It’s quite empowering, it’s energizing, and I’m feeling better than I have in a while about my “place” in all that is going on in our reality.
Similarly in our Jewish Federation and in our Jewish world, we can either choose to sit back and watch things unfold and happen TO us or we can take matters into OUR own hands. Just yesterday, I received hard copies of the Arizona State University 2019 Maricopa County Jewish Community Survey. One recommendation that came from the survey results is “organizations should emphasize social justice, ethical living and charitable works as the grounding principles of what it means to be Jewish.” Seems somewhat prescient considering what we are dealing with as a result of the pandemic.
This week’s Torah portion is Shoftim (Judges) in the book of Deuteronomy. Found in this portion is the Jewish building block idea of Tzedek, Tzedek Terdof, (justice justice thou shalt pursue). And as many of you know, this is the root of the word Tzedaka, which is not defined as “charity” but as justice or responsibility. Let’s be proactive in insisting that justice prevail in our own lives, in our own households, in our community, and in our world!
That is how we will find the opportunity in the chaos we are living through right now.
Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom.
Light candles on Friday at 6:48pm. Shabbat ends on Saturday at 7:43pm.
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