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: This week’s parsha (Torah portion), Chayei Sarah, opens with a brief mention of the death of Sarah (the matriarch) at age 127, and then is immediately followed by a much longer description of Abraham purchasing land from local citizens. They offer to give him the land as a gift, but he refuses – instead insisting that he pay for it in full. This week’s dvar tzedek author, Sarah Mulhern, asks the question “why is it so important to Abraham to purchase this land in precisely this way—at full price and in front of the entire community? And what is so crucial for us to learn from this process that the Torah sees fit to devote so many verses to it?
The “takeaway”: Mulhern writes that “we see that Abraham was a man of great foresight. He understood, as do…other indigenous and marginalized populations around the world, that land ownership is not something to be taken for granted.” Indigenous people all over the globe, particularly in developing countries, have to fight for their rights to the land they have often lived on for centuries. It can be a painstaking process, and the fight is not always successful – too often, big corporations are able to displace an entire people to fulfill their development goals.
The “to-do”: Support the work of organizations that are “doing crucial work to ensure that, like Abraham, people around the world today retain legal rights to their land.” American Jewish World Service partners with many of these organizations – like Il’laramatak Community Concerns in Kenya, which works with the Masai community. Find out more about their work at AJWS.
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.