Shabbat Service is a weekly bit of Torah-inspired do-gooding, brought to you by Repair the World and our grantee-partner American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Read on to see how these ancient stories can apply today. Seem far fetched? Check it out:
The story: In this week’s parsha (Torah portion), Dvarim, the Israelites gather on the steppes of Moab, waiting for Moses to deliver his final speech before they enter their new home in the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering in the desert. It’s a beautiful, awe-inspiring moment, until Moses begins to speak and rebukes the Israelites at length about their sins in the desert.
The “takeaway”: This week’s dvar tzedek author, Leah Kaplan Robins, admits that “this oration stuns me every year…Why does Moses reiterate these facts when what [the Israelites] probably need is an inspirational message about how far they’ve come? I have always assumed that Moses simply lost control, succumbing to his bitterness that the people will enter Canaan without him.”
But, she writes, the big picture tells another story. “I’m seeing Moses’s speech in a new light this week, as my AJWS colleagues—and 49 of our grantees from around the world—are attending the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. For the 25,000 activists, scientists, NGO workers and policy makers gathering on their proverbial mountain top, it must be tempting to stoke feelings of relief at how far they’ve come since the first terrifying cases of HIV emerged in 1979. But emphasizing this progress obscures the devastating big picture.”
In other words, like Moses or today’s leaders in the fight against AIDS, sometimes one can lead best when they don’t let people get complacent, but continue to remind them exactly why they’re fighting. In the case of the AIDS epidemic, the reason for fighting is the memory of the 30 million people who’ve died of the disease, and in honor of the 33 million more currently infected.
The “to-do” Lend your support to the cause: sign this Declaration to End AIDS petition, which was created by major AIDS organizations in Washington DC.
Read the full Torah commentary, on which this excerpt is based, over at AJWS’ website. And for more great texts, commentary and Jewish learning resources on social justice, check out the On 1 Foot database.