Last year at this same time, I wrote the following:
In our many years in Los Angeles, Beth and I confronted a dozen wildfires near our home. In the event of evacuation, what would we take with us? The kids, of course. The dog and his crate. Enough clothes for three days or so. Snacks, water, emergency provisions. These things fill a car—and quickly. There is little room for much more. A few ritual items, photos, legal documents, and the car is packed, literally and figuratively. What did we need and what could we simply not part with?
Ki Thisa, this week’s Torah portion, is filled with more of the drama of our wandering in the desert. The reading includes instructions for a census, the Golden Calf, and more. Seemingly mundane descriptions of ritual objects. A washstand, anointing oil, and incense used in the Temple rite—all to further the relationships among the people of Israel and between Israel and God.
Relationship. Place. Memory. The items Israel carried were shaped by these, and they likewise defined the items Beth and I chose as well.
Our friends in Boulder and in surrounding communities were forced to make such decisions—or denied the opportunity to do so—and still many lost everything in the devastating fires. Elsewhere, thousands of miles away, with The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) preparing for their aliyah to Israel, 5,000 Ethiopian Jews are making those same, impossible decisions. Just as they are in Ukraine, where the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), JAFI, and others are working to assist the remnants of Eastern European Jewry while tensions at the border increase.
Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Bazeh. All of Israel are responsible for one another. These are not hollow words. Thousands of you supported our friends and neighbors who were displaced by fire. And we will respond again by supporting our Ethiopian and Ukrainian cousins.
Our Torah story this week begins with a census; in Hebrew, the word is pakad, meaning in the fullest sense “to lift one’s head.” In times of need, our expressions of support, our acts of support, do just that: they enable both we who have plenty and those who are in need to lift up our heads, in compassion and in dignity.
May we continue to open our hearts to those who are in need, and may we all, no matter where we are, act together to lift them up.
Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO
Please email Rabbi Strear at CEO@JEWISHcolorado.org with comments or questions.