Tonight I will be talking about a verse that is found in this week’s Torah portion which suggests that the young and old will be leaving Egypt upon the completion of the 10 Plagues. In reading this portion, it is clear to me that true redemption can only occur when all of us are able to enjoy life’s blessings.
A colleague of mine, Rabbi Jack Riemer, wrote a piece about the creative ways in which Danny Siegel, a poet and author suggests that we care for others in our community. Two of the ideas that resonated with me were the following:
Emily Davenport was a teenager who heard Danny Siegel speak, and was impressed. The next day she went to a local doughnut shop and asked if she could pick up their leftover doughnuts and bring them to a shelter for the homeless. What gave her the idea was that she knew that adults bring necessities to the shelters—things like bread and soups, but she wondered: Why can’t these people have some luxuries as well as necessities? And so she decided to bring them doughnuts. The owner of the doughnut store had never been asked to donate his leftover doughnuts before, and his answer was, “Sure, why not?” And so, ever since, Emily Davenport goes there once or twice a week and picks up the leftover doughnuts, and her parents take her to the local homeless shelter where she delivers them. No adult ever thought of that idea, but a Bat Mitzvah girl did.
Danny Siegel says that in seventeen college campuses all around the country students are insisting that their college cafeterias purchase food only from places that agree that they do not employ child labor and who do not manufacture their goods in sweatshops. The colleges did not like the idea. They wanted to buy from wherever was cheaper, and they felt that they had enough to worry about making sure that the food they served was safe and sanitary, without having to worry about whether it was ethically made or not. So they tried to fudge and stall on this issue. But these college students are not dummies. If they have been accepted because of their high IQ’s, and their good grades, do these colleges really think that they can fool them or put them off with excuses? The students are on to them, says Danny Siegel, and in the long run they will win.
The people who run the college cafeterias and restaurants may have degrees in business administration or from cooking schools, but the kids are just as smart as they are—and maybe smarter—when it comes to moral issues. I bet on them to succeed, and I predict that in a few more years there will be a lot more than seventeen colleges that will give in to their demands.
I hope that as we seek to bring about the redemption of our world, we will be able to find meaningful ways to help others and look forward to our students, staff, and faculty doing our share to brings blessings to those who are less fortunate.
Rabbi Bruce Aft
GMU Hillel Rabbinic Advisor