06 May 2016
This week’s parasha is Acharei Mot, and begins with a listing of the responsibilities of the ancient high priests, especially during Yom Kippur, the holiest of days. Aaron is told that he may enter the Inner Sanctum only on Yom Kippur and only wearing the simplest of clothing. Commentators refer to the surprising and swift deaths of Aaron’s sons, Avihu and Nadav, as resulting from overconfidence and/or being too zealous. We are told that service to the Jewish community must be offered with humility.
We read this parasha after retelling our collective story of freedom from bondage during Passover. After recounting the trials and tribulations of the Israelites as slaves – the most humbling of human conditions – we “celebrated” by eating matzah, a simple, tasteless food (sans the egg, chocolate, salted and otherwise-embellished varieties). By linking the Pesach narrative with the Yom Kippur liturgy – the “bread of affliction” and the “day of self-affliction” – we are taught two important lessons: 1) change and renewal is difficult – for individuals and for nations, and 2) modesty and humility are key attributes to the service of community.
Just yesterday, we commemorated Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. While Yom HaShoah occupies a single day on the calendar, caring for Holocaust survivors in our community is at the forefront of our work 365 days a year for the Jewish Social Service Agency (JSSA) and Federation. JSSA (a Federation partner) provides direct services to frail, poor and ill Holocaust survivors in our community, including meals on wheels, in-home personal care assistance and ongoing service coordination. Our overseas partner, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), provides similar critical services to Holocaust survivors in communities around the world. And I am especially proud to note that in partnership with JSSA and generous community donors, Federation has established the Holocaust Survivor Community Fund to help support our precious survivors, whose needs continue to grow each and every day.
With humility, we recall our past, respond to the present and prepare for the future.