William Hamilton

Being Trusted

“The world was created on the merit of three things: the First Fruits offering, Tithes, and Challah,” say the sages (Yalkut Gen. 1:2). Why these three? Because each of them is a reminder that human beings ultimately own nothing. Each of these acts, bringing the First Fruit offering, donating a tenth of our earnings, and removing a small portion of braided Challah bread, reminds us that we’re guardians, merely caretakers of what we work hard to earn and own during our time here on earth.

What comes from this awakening? A fresh affiliation with God’s sacred interests. 

What’s that mean? I mean, really, what’s it mean, practically? 

Here’s a possibility. In the next 3 hours, go out of your way to tell someone why you believe in them. Not somebody who you can’t trust because they lie. Not someone who you don’t like because they’re hypocritical. Not somebody you’re not safe around because they champion violence against you. 

I’m talking about the vast majority of decent, well-intentioned, folks you encounter every day. Go out of your way to say something like, “Here’s something I love about you. You know how to show up when it matters.” Or, “I haven’t forgotten what you did for our colleague, the way you stepped up for her when she was down and struggling.” Or, even more personally, “I’ll never forget what you did for me when I needed a hug, and for my family when we needed a friend.”

There’s a vital difference between doing something easy and doing something edifying; between doing something pleasing and doing something productive. The Jewish way to parse this difference is, between doing something satisfying and doing something redeeming. 

This week’s portion radiates redemption as does no other portion of Torah. 13 verses contain the Hebrew word for redeem (Ga’al) (Lev. 25: 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 48, 49, 51, 52, 54). It’s hard to miss. And it couldn’t come at a better time. 

We can pull our hair out with madness over those who can’t tell the difference between an atrocity and an accident. Even worse, with those who can tell, but refuse to. Or we can recall how little space they deserve inside our heads.  

Take a minute this afternoon to bring a trust-restoring act to life. And may the fresh breeze of affiliation with God’s redemptive interests feel like an emotional homecoming. Sort of like your own private miracle. One you choose to share with your neighbor.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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