D’var Torah Written by NFTY-SO Teen Sydney Gold, JewCCY (New Orleans)
Shabbat Shalom. This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, is all about giving back. In this portion, G-d commands the Israelites to leave 10% of their crop each season uncollected. This section of their crop is to be left for “the stranger, the orphan, and the widow,” In other words, G-d instructs the people of Israel to set aside a portion of their product for those less fortunate. He promises those who follow this rule unimaginable blessing, while those who choose to ignore it unfathomable consequences. Though in this portion G-d speaks only of farming and crops, the idea of sharing in your success has become one of the cornerstone values of Judaism. From collecting Tzedaka to participating in community service and social action, the Jewish community has always taken it upon themselves to help those in need.
In our NFTY- SO community we work hard to implement this value. Social action programming has always been used to help make NFTY-SO a benchmark of our communities in terms of giving back. There is never a lack of ways to get involved, people to help, and volunteers exited to take on the job. For example, last weekend was the 10 year anniversary of Katrina. Katrina devastated areas around the gulf coast, including Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and parts of the Florida panhandle, all of which are areas in our region. My home town of New Orleans was one of the hardest hit areas, along with the rest of southeast Louisiana and Southern Mississippi. 10 years ago, when this disaster struck, NFTY-SO and the southern Jewish community as a whole extended open arms to the Jews living in these areas, offering shelter, assistance, and any other resources at their disposal. This is because we as a people know what it’s like to go through hard times, and want to help create comfort in the lives of those living without. Katrina hit many families in the region hard, sending families across the nation in search of a safe place to stay. All of your cities opened their homes and hearts to the people of these areas, and never hesitated for a moment.
For the stranger, the orphan, and the widow, we extend open arms and hearts and blessings, and invite them to share with us in our fortune. Along with helping those in need of help, we graciously accept the kindness of others, knowing that once we have the opportunity, we too will help those less fortunate. These values so heavily ingrained in our religion can all be traced back to this portion. To the idea of giving back when you have more than you need; to helping those who do not have what you have; to speaking for those with no voice; to feeding those with no food. We take pride in these acts of kindness, and consider them acts of Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world. As we head into the rest of this Sabbath, the remainder of our time together, and soon to be the Jewish new year, I encourage you all to reflect upon what you have done, and what you will do to make our communities, both inside out outside of NFTY, a better place. Shabbat Shalom.