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Your actions do matter

Many today wonder whether we can matter. Can we really make a difference in today’s world? The problems are so enormous. The challenges are so vast. The suffering seems so unstoppable.

And yet, grass roots efforts by the tens of thousands, from Texas to Massachusetts, from every continent and corner of the globe, have sprung into action to extend willing hearts and hands to the people of Ukraine.

In this week’s portion of Torah, we first meet the Hebrew word nirtza, which is the term that indicates that an offering has been accepted (Lev 1:4). It has been brought and received in good faith. This word also appears at the conclusion of the Passover Seder. It signifies the completion of the observance. Yet, where does it lead us?

One commentator says its outcome should become launchpad to activate positive works (Bartenura). That is, the end of the experience should mobilize us anew. The Seder’s rituals are meant to marshal difference-making deeds. And this really matters.

Alas, Putin’s ruthless actions also matter. His slaughter of civilians continues. Every minute of every hour of every day, suffering is being inflicted and fatalities are mounting. The juxtaposition between the strollers awaiting those fleeing the violence and the brazen attack of a maternity hospital couldn’t be more stark.

It is not accidental that this idea of ‘activating nirtza’ is first introduced in a passage of Torah that calls out to us. It opens a biblical book that derives its Hebrew name from being called (vayikra). A response is required. Do you want to help at the border? Inside Ukraine? With those arriving in Israel? You decide. Your response is now waiting to be met.

A deed can grow its doer. As my friend and teacher Rabbi David Wolpe has suggested, perhaps we can judge a painful experience, not by what comes of it, but by what becomes of us because of it.

May your example be infectious and inviting. And may it come to prove that monstrous darkness can be met with glowing goodness that emerges as what’s truly unstoppable.

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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