“Our repentance, our mitzvah of listening to the shofar blasts,” said Rebbe Nachman, “arouses Hashem’s pity on us.” And so with the cries of our shofars, we beseech the Creator to have pity and plead for mercy on behalf of the poor and the destitute, on behalf of the worker and the migrant, on behalf of the enslaved and the oppressed, and on behalf of the wealthy who exploit, enslave and oppress, that they may come to repent and be redeemed.
You may ask: Why was the generation of the flood punished when they never received the commandments? It may be suggested that there are certain commandments that people are obligated to observe by force of reason, even if they were never commanded, and therefore they were punished. —Chizkuni, Bereshit 7:21
When that great calamity came upon Job, he said to the Holy One, blessed be He: “Master of the universe, did I not feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty… ? And did I not clothe the naked?” Nevertheless the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Job: ”Job, you have not yet reached even half the measure of Abraham. You sit and stay in your house and the wayfarers come in to you. To him who is accustomed to eat wheat bread, you give wheat bread to eat; to him who is accustomed to eat meat, you give meat to eat; to him who is accustomed to drink wine, you give wine to drink. But Abraham did not act in this way. Instead, he would go out and around everywhere, and when he found wayfarers, he brought them into his house. To him who was unaccustomed to eat wheat bread, he gave wheat bread to eat; to him who was unaccustomed to eat meat, he gave meat to eat; to him who was unaccustomed to drink wine, he gave wine to drink. And more than that, he arose and built large mansions on the highways and left food and drink there, and every passerby ate and drank and blessed Heaven. That is why delight of spirit was given to him. —Avot D’Rebbe Natan
Man was put on earth with a difficult mission — to emulate G-d. “To walk in His ways and to cleave to Him” (Devarim 11:22), the Torah commands. Upon no other creature in Creation does this grand expectation rest. Only man must strive for G-dliness, because he alone is equipped to do so. Only man was created in the image of Hashem. The challenge each person faces in his life is to seek out this element of G-dliness in himself and strengthen it by emulating Hashem’s ways. Acts of chesed are the means to that end. To emulate Hashem, a person must comprehend His nature. Man’s knowledge of Hashem is limited to what he sees of Him in this world; He is the Creator, the Healer, the Protector, the Comforter, the Giver, the Sustainer of all life. “He gives bread to all flesh,” says Tehillim 136:25. Every creature in Creation is sustained by Hashem’s giving hand; there is a form of nourishment and shelter provided for everything from the amoeba to the elephant. Therefore, the most effective way for a person to emulate Hashem is for him to give to and care for others. The more he expresses his desire to do kindness, the more precisely he reflects the image of Hashem. Someone who deludes himself into believing that chesed is an “extra,” something to be avoided if possible, obscures Hashem’s image in himself. He takes himself down from the pedestal upon which Hashem placed mankind — the only creation made in His own image — and sets himself instead among the masses of creatures that roam the earth. Not only does he lose sight of Hashem’s image in himself, he fails to see it in others as well. One who sees other people as a reflection of Hashem naturally feels love and respect for them, and this, in turn, naturally expresses itself in a desire to help others. The person who loves chesed is the person who understands the true greatness of Man and the Source from which this greatness flows. –The Chofetz Chaim, Loving Kindness
It is fitting to receive every person, lowly and grand, freed and slave, every member of the human race, with joy and happiness. This goes beyond what Shammai says (Avot 1:15): “[Receive all people] with a kindly countenance.” —Rambam, Mishna Avot 3:12
Greater is the welcoming of guests than the welcoming of the Shechinah. —Shabbat 172a
“When you see someone naked, cover them.” R. Abba bar Zavda and R. Yohanan [discussed this text.] One said: “One makes exacting inquiries regarding clothing, but not regarding life [i.e. food]. The other said: “Even regarding clothing one is not exacting because of the covenant of our father Abraham.” —Vayikra Rabba 34:14
One gives to a poor person who travels from place to place no less than a loaf of bread worth a dupondium, [made from wheat which costs at least] one sela for four seahs. If the poor person stayed overnight, one gives enough for a night’s lodging, oil, and legumes. [If the poor person] stays for Shabbat, one gives food for three meals, oil, legumes, fish, and a vegetable. To what does this refer? When one does not recognize the poor person, but when one does recognize the poor person, one should even cover the person. —Tosefta Peach, 4:8
The men of Sodom waxed haughty only on account of the good which the Holy One, blessed be He, had lavished upon them…They said: Since there cometh forth bread out of (our) earth, and it hath the dust of gold, why should we suffer wayfarers, who come to us only to deplete our wealth. Come, let us abolish the practice of travelling in our land… —Sanhedrin 109a
Rabbi Ze era said: The men of Sodom were the wealthy men of prosperity, on account of the good and fruitful land whereon they dwelt… Rabbi Nathaniel said: The men of Sodom had no consideration for the honour of their Owner by not distributing food to the wayfarer and stranger, but they even fenced in all the trees on top above their fruit so that so that they should not be seized; not even by the bird of heaven… Rabbi Joshua… said: They appointed over themselves judges who were lying judges, and they oppressed every wayfarer and stranger who entered Sodom by their perverse judgment, and they sent them forth naked… —Pirke D’Rebbe Eliezer
[The Sodomites’] intention was to stop people from coming among them, as our rabbis have said, for they thought that because of the excellence of their land… many will come there. And they despised charity… they continued provoking and rebelling against Him with their ease and the oppression of the poor… —Ramban, Bereishit 19:5
So ye shall not Pollute the land Wherein ye are, for blood, it Polluteth the land. —Bamidbar 35:33
He who spills blood in the land defiles the land and drives away the Divine Presence. —Rabbi Yishmael
Love of all beings is also love of G-d, for whoever loves the One loves all the works that He has made. When one loves G-d, it is impossible not to love His creations. The opposite is also true. If one hates His creations, it is impossible to love G-d Who created them. –The Maharal of Prague, Netivot Olam, Ahavat Hare’i
Do not think that you are giving to the poor from your own possession, or that I despised the poor person by not giving them as I gave you. For they are my children, as you are, and their share is in your grain; it is to your benefit to give them their share from your property. —Torat Moshe, Vayikra 19:9
A story is told of Binyamin HaTzaddik, who was the supervisor of his community’s Tzedakah fund. Once, when there was a shortage of food, a woman came to him and said, “Rabbi, feed me!” He replied, “I swear that there is no more money left in the Tzedakah fund.” She said, “If you do not feed me, a woman and her seven children will die.” So he fed her from his own money. —Bava Batra 11a
We Jews have been commanded to rescue the pursued from the hands of any who pursue them with intent to kill, if necessary at the cost of the pursuer’s life…Among the roots of this commandment is that God, Who is Blessed, created the world and willed that it be settled, and the settlement of the world is upheld by the championing of the weak against those stronger. Furthermore, the pursued will always have eyes and heart turned toward God to champion him against his pursuer, as Scripture says, “The Lord will seek out the pursued”- meaning that the pursued seeks the Lord and prays. —Sefer HaChinuch 600
One must put oneself in possible jeopardy in order to save someone whose life is in certain danger [because], “something doubtful cannot outweigh something that is certain.” —Kesef Mishneh, Laws of Murder 1:14
“Do not oppress a stranger” - You know the feelings of the stranger - how painful it is for the stranger when you oppress them. —Rashi, Shemot 23:9
God does justice for the orphan and the widow, and loves the stranger, in giving food and clothing. And you will love the stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. —Targum Yonatan, Devarim 10:18-19
Do not subvert the rights of the stranger, the orphan or the widow. —Targum Yonatan, Devarim 24:17
It has been taught: R. Eliezer the Great said, “Why did the Torah warn against [the wronging of] a ger [stranger/convert] in thirty-six, or as others say, in forty-six, places? Because the ger has an inclination towards evil.” What is the meaning of the verse, You must neither wrong a stranger, nor oppress the stranger; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt? It has been taught: R. Nathan said: Do not taunt your neighbor with the blemish you yourself have. —Baba Metzia 59b
After it says, “Do not oppress” in the plural the language changes to be singular…, for anyone who sees a person oppressing an orphan or a widow and does not come to their aid, they will also be considered oppressors. —Ibn Ezra, Shemot 22:23
Compassion is the feeling of empathy which the pain of one being awakens in another. The higher and more human the beings are, the more keenly attuned they are to re-echo the note of suffering which, like a voice from heaven, penetrates the heart, bringing to all creatures a proof of their kinship in the universal G-d. And as for the human being, whose function it is to show respect and love for G-d’s universe and all its creatures, his heart has been created so tender that it feels with the whole organic world…so that if nothing else, the very nature of his heart must teach him that he is required above everything else to feel himself the brother of all beings, and to recognize the claim of all beings to his love and beneficence (Horeb 17:125). Do not suppress this compassion, this sympathy especially with the sufferings of your fellow man. It is the warning voice of duty, which points out to you your brother in every sufferer, and your own sufferings in his, and awakens the love which tells you that you belong to him and his sufferings with all the powers that you have. Do not suppress it! … See in it the admonition of G-d that you are to have no joy so long as a brother suffers by your side (Horeb 17:126). –Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch
It is evil in the sight of the Holy One, blessed be He, if any of His creatures is despised. —Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, Tomer Devorah
Our sages commanded us to visit the non-Jewish sick and to bury the non-Jewish dead along with the Jewish dead, and support the non-Jewish poor along with the Jewish poor for the sake of peace. As it says, “God is good to all and God’s mercies extend over all God’s works” (Psalms 145:9), and “[The Torah’s] ways are pleasant and all its paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17). —Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 10:12
Rabbi Yeshoshua ben Korcha says: Anyone who averts their eyes from tzedakah is like one who worships idolatry. It is written here: “Beware lest you harbor the base thought, [‘The seventh year, the year of remission, is approaching’]…” (Deuteronomy 15:9), and it is written there: “Base people have gone out [from among you and subverted the inhabitants of their town]…” (Deuteronomy 13:14); just as there it is idolatry, so here it is idolatry. —Bava Batra 10a
Judaism, if properly understood and properly presented, unites all living things with a bond of love and justice. —Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch, The Nineteen Letters
You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan. If you do Mistreat Them, I will Heed Their Outcry as soon as they’ll cry out to Me, and My anger shall blaze forth and I will put you to the sword, and your own wives shall Become widows and your Children Orphans. —Shemot 22:20-23
- Extrajudicially assassinated American citizens.
- Pursued a drone war in Pakistan without Congressional authorization.
- Dropped charges against the CIA for torture.
- Presided over a secret $16T bailout of the global banking industry.
- Extended the Bush tax cuts which caused our current $16T deficit.
- Set a record for the number of prosecutions against government whistleblowers.
- Possibly tortured WikiLeaks whisteblower Bradley Manning.
- Oversees a massive federal domestic surveillance program.
- Signed a bill authorizing the deployment of 30,000 aerial drones within U.S. territory.
- Chose not to prosecute telephone companies that cooperated with Bush’s illegal federal wiretapping program.
- Authorized the NYPD’s anti-Muslim spying program.
- Resurrected COINTELPRO to target the Occupy movement.
- Organized raids on Occupy encampments nationally.
- Conducted SWAT team raids on Occupy activists for possession of anarchist literature and black clothing.
- Signed a bill outlawing protests in his vicinity.
- Signed a bill outlawing protests at military funerals.
- Abandoned his commitment to prevent a 2 degree rise in global temperature.
- Increased off-shore drilling in the wake of the Deep Water Horizon spill.
- Increased permits for drilling in the Arctic.
- Rejected out of hand reevaluation of marijuana laws.
- Conducted raids on legal medical marijuana cooperatives.
- Sent U.S. troops on drug interdiction missions in Central America.
- Deported 1,000,000 immigrants.
- Issued an executive order banning federal funding for abortion providers.
- Ignored Israel’s killing of an American aboard the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla.
- Vetoed Palestinian statehoood.
- And I can keep on going…
I just left this comment on Gil Troy’s latest garbage op-ed for the Jerusalem Post. 15 minutes later is was “hidden due to abuse reports.”
There is a monumental difference between trying to legislate a religious morality that deprives others of their justice, equality and freedom, and finding inspiration in your faith to pursue justice, equality and freedom for all. When the Christian or Jewish religious right engages in the political process, it does so to deprive gays, women, Muslims and others of their rights. When the Jewish left engages in the political process, it does so to defend the rights of minorities and to ensure that the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the sick, the hungry, the homeless, and the naked, are provided for. No one would argue that Christian fundamentalists have no right to engage in the political process. What they would argue is that they don’t have a right to impose a belief system on the public that oppresses minorities or that enshrines discrimination into law. Ergo, your argument, Mr. Canadian-Israeli (who has no stake in the U.S. elections other than as a Zionist and who is cynically pretending to give a damn about this issue only to undermine Obama because you perceive him to be anti-Israel), is invalid.
I’m sorry you find it “annoying” that we liberal American Jews care more about our social security, healthcare, civil liberties and environment than we do a country that consistently tells us that we are fake Jews, which denies our non-Orthodox expressions of Judaism equality, which elevates racists to cabinet level positions, and which even the doyenne of American Jewish journalism, Jeffrey Goldberg, says is practicing apartheid. Personally, I find it annoying that people like you have the gumption to tell us to put everything else in the world that matters aside for a country that does not hesitate to throw us American Jews under the bus, time and time again.
Also, the purported backlash against Rabbis for Obama, is one manufactured by the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Emergency Committee for Israel, two groups backed by billionaires who are cynically using the issue of Israel to get themselves a lower marginal tax rate. Bill Kristol, the chair of ECI, said himself in a public debate with J Street’s Jeremy Ben Ami that he finds Obama’s policies towards Israel to be virtually indistinguishable from his predecessor’s. In that, you are abetting their distortion of fact and reality, because despite your hilarious claim of moderation, while you may be moderate on everything else, you are a right-wing pro-Israel extremist, as your columns prove over and over again.
[Update] I’ve reposted it and it seems to be sticking around for now. We’ll see what happens when the sun rises again in Israel.