iF we act to eradicate hunger

By Rabbi Aaron Gol...
January 27, 2013

When our Rabbis met recently to consider the thought of Arthur Green, a modern mystic, and one of our most important contemporary theologians, they summarised their study with the following statements:

Oneness of all being
A Faith and religion about individual personal experience
Seeing our individual, personal narrative as part of the wider human tale, and the greatest narrative of all: the unfolding of creation
Where are you in all of this?

Belief in Oneness that we express so definitely in every prayer service through the Shema, leads one to a sense of connectedness: that everything is linked and is mutually dependent - God with humanity and all that we might say that God created the potential within, the natural world and what it contains

So we might talk about the environment in terms of God having created the potential for the world and humanity being its custodians the caretakers who make sure nothing goes wrong. In Genesis 2:15: “The Eternal One took adam (humanity) and placed adam in the Garden of Eden to till it and to guard it”. According to this verse, God put humanity in the Garden of Eden to work the land and to protect the land. In other words, human beings are stewards of the earth.
This idea was expanded upon in a popular midrash (Kohelet Rabbah):
When the Holy One every to be Blessed created adam, God took adam and they went on a tour of all the trees of the Garden of Eden and God said to adam: "See My works, how lovely and how excellent they are, and everything that I have created, for you I have created them… Pay attention that you should not corrupt it, there is no-one to fix it after you".
In other words, God created the world and appointed humanity as the steward to guard the world. If we corrupt or destroy the world, God will not come to the rescue to fix it.
This principle can also be applied to the earth’s produce. If we focus on education in schools, it might mean that every child in this country has access to a laptop in school! But more fundamental, more essential it might be interpreted as meaning that no child on this planet, indeed no adult need suffer from hunger.

We would all I am sure wish to put the world to rights immediately; each day of our lives. Unfortunately we are not always in a place to be able to affect such change. It is in times of security and privilege that one has the opportunity to be most philanthropic or beneficiant.

A time of security does not mean when one is completely assured of their physical safety: there are many examples of those who act most generously even when their own lives are in extreme peril - but it helps when we feel physically safe.

And privilege does not only mean the super wealthy: though it might help and is certainly part of the equation. It is a state of mind when one is able to truly express oneself in freedom; ones own identity is explicit especially through art, culture, high thought, and the potential within wider society not just within ones community.

I do believe that right now is such a time for us Jews living in the UK. This era is a real gift. Our challenge is to use our traditions, our heritage and our particular People’s narrative, to free others from the chains of poverty and hunger. First we must free ourselves from the siege mentality that our Jewish press often portray to reassure ourselves that we are secure, that we are privileged to live as British Jews today.

If we can be agreed on that, we must therefore acknowledge the responsibility that this brings with it. It also helps when such a moment when we realise our own duties, coincides with a moment when our own government holds a position of leadership, of responsibility. In 2013, the UK is the chair of the G8.

This week we have been given the opportunity to take responsibility to nurture the environment, to insure that its produce is fairly distributed and that no one need know hunger. iF is a mass joint campaign between faith groups and development NGOs with the goal of addressing the challenge of a food system that leaves around one billion people in the developing world hungry or without secure access to food.

If we give enough aid to stop children dying from hunger, and help the poorest people feed themselves.

If we stop poor farmers being pushed off their land, and use crops to feed people, not cars.

If we stop big companies dodging taxes in poor countries, so that millions can free themselves of hunger.

If we force governments and corporations to be honest about the actions they take that stop people getting enough food.

During this period, the campaign will call on the UK government to take action around four key policy areas: upholding its commitment to the aid budget; stopping big companies dodging taxes in poor countries; ending land grabs, where poor farmers are forced off their land; forcing governments and big corporations to be open and transparent.

Each one of us can take our part by signing up to the EnoughFoodiF campaign on its website and by getting as many people involved as possible.

Also, take the opportunity to explore the Jewish charities linked to alleviating food poverty, such as Gefiltefest, Jewish Social Action Forum, World Jewish Relief, Tzedek, and if you are focussed on Israel, Leket Israel, to see how we can make a lasting difference past 2013.

Oneness of all being
A Faith and religion about individual personal experience
Seeing our individual, personal narrative as part of the wider human tale, and the greatest narrative of all: the unfolding of creation
Where are you in all of this?

I hope and pray that this Shabbat, this Tu BiShvat, we may all be actively seeking the eradication of hunger.


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