The question is rhetorical. The answer is one we have given over the years when, God forbid, tragedy strikes: it’s just what people do; when something truly goes wrong in a neighborhood, neighbors who hardly say hello emerge to help. It is one of the upsides of human nature.
So, each of us is doing what we can to send what we can to help in Haiti.
It is noteworthy that Israel was the first country to establish a comprehensive working hospital to save lives. The way they did it was, hours after the quake, they sent an evaluation team into Haiti to assess what was needed. That way, a day later, a properly stocked hospital and hundreds of personnel, including pharmacists and all types of medical expertise were flown in, knowing exactly where to set up, so that they hit the ground running…a fully functioning hospital. In your donations to Haiti you might consider donating to the Israeli effort there since this was an expensive effort Israel mounted that has done a lot of good. You could do so with a donation to Magen David Adom, the Israeli equivalent of Red Cross; all donations to them are going into Haiti, and it is a nice way to support Israel’s presence there. Here is the link to the American Friends of Magen David Adom: https://www.afmda.org/afmdapublic/index.aspx
In terms of the bigger picture, this natural outpouring of care to the Haitians suggests to me another way of appreciating the structure and psychology of the Jewish value system. On one hand, the need for the value system is indicated by the fact that human beings left without a teaching, will tend to look at life as “what’s in it for me?” They will tend to notice what goes wrong and overlook what goes right. Yet, the structure of the Jewish value system, linking Torah and Mitzvah, that what we learn is designed to be put into action, is designed to be accessible and realistic…that the prayers we do and the observances we celebrate keep us in mental, spiritual and additudinal shape to do what is right even when it isn’t a time of tragedy or an awakening to needs that have to met yesterday.
It is interesting that Israel’s policy is to jump into action immediately to be of help wherever it can, whenever it can, not just in time of tragedy, but in any situation that a country can benefit from its lessons about how to bring health and wellbeing into the world, despite obstacle it faces in its own struggles for peace and security in the Middle East. It is part of Israel’s founding mission to be Light to the Nations.
As we all do whatever we can to relieve the suffering and address the devastation in Haiti, let us use our feelings and responsiveness as a wake-up call to revisit the values inherent in our Jewish system, reminding us to keep alert to doing what is good, right, proper and caring every day and steadfastly so. When you are living in that mode, it is less of a surprise when you find yourself among the first to respond when tragedy does strike. In any situation God asks: Where are you? Are you doing what is good and right? Are you in a state of readiness to respond when something goes wrong? The answer of one who is prepared is: Hineni! “Here I am” to face whatever, with the best of my abilities, to bring goodness and restore balance into the world.
God be with us all as we do our best to bring comfort and whatever good we can, to the devastated lives of the citizens of Haiti.
Does Everybody Need a Rabbi?
The fact that I am comfortable raising this question by way of introducing a new program, not a direct part of CBI, is a tribute to all of you, and the level of trust we have built.
Beginning in February, God willing, I am introducing a new 6 session program in the Bay Area, not as rabbi of B’nai Israel, but as head of Relationship Resources Unlimited, home for 12 and 9 years respectively to the Napa Men’s and Women’s Groups.
Everybody Needs a Rabbi launches in 4 different sites Feb. 10, 11, 17 & 18, for women and men, men, and soon, for women. This program is built on my translation of Jewish values and principles into secular and ongoing usage: 5 Trails…tapping into 5 styles and orientations by which we function, respectful of all our differences and varying ways of accessing God and life meaning.
I am proud and honored that the Board of Directors of B’nai Israel chose to invite and welcome me to use CBI as one of the sites. I, in turn, am offering the program at a highly reduced rate to CBI members, in appreciation for your synagogue membership and support.
I am excited about Everybody Needs a Rabbi, (named by Catholic friend, comedian, youth advocate, and PBS Host, Michael Pritchard) because it allows me to put all of my work together: my spiritual leadership at CBI, my heading up WineSpirit, connecting wine and spirituality, and my facilitation of the Napa Men’s and Women’s Groups, generating the inspiration and models for the program.
What has in large measure made this possible is my experience with you here at B’nai Israel. Your understanding of my dedication to these varieties of different callings enables and energizes me in doing all of it. Having all these contexts, each complementing the others, makes it easier to demonstrate that Judaism applies in all facets of our waking hours, not as a heavy weight of ritual obligation, but as an inspiring awareness of the varieties of life blessings, there/here for us to notice and to appreciate and to act upon, any time, and all the time. It allows us to weather the storms and generate strength and insight to respond to the hurts and disappointments.
In preparing for this 6 week program, meeting every other week, at B’nai Israel, starting Thursday February 18, at 6pm (see brochure for more details; contact me and I can send you one), I realized the word “rabbi” is also metaphorical (perhaps as Michael implied); from time to time any one of us serves as “rabbi” to another: the wisdom, the insight, the unique perspective, the comfort, the caring…applying what we have learned over the years in special teaching moments.
So, even as we move forward with all out programs at B’nai Israel, including the next installment of Introduction to Judaism on Sunday, February 21 at 10:45am, and the next monthly Sippin’ Vintage Judaism, on Tuesday, February 23 at 5:30pm, I hope you will step “outside of the box” with me, on February 18, for the launch of Everybody Needs a Rabbi!