Spotlight: Jewish Living

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Spotlight on Jewish Living—Practical Mitzvot

Helping to Feed the Hungry in Tulare County:

A CBD Initiative to Aid “Food Link”

Michael Sheltzer, Co-Director of Religious Practice

 It is no secret that Tulare County has a significant population of impoverished and hungry people.  It is also painfully ironic that a region which boasts of the most fertile and productive agricultural lands in the entire world ranks 56 out of 58 in personal adult food insecurity.  A staggering 43.8% of adults in Tulare County are unable to provide necessary food for themselves and their families.  Nearly 30% of the children in our community live in poverty. 

 As the current economic crisis lingers, it is also true that “Food Link,” one of the main sources of relief for our hungry neighbors is itself experiencing financial cutbacks.  A 28% reduction in overall expenditures has lead to February 2011 staff reductions and major decreases in the amount of food available for distribution.  Congregation B’nai David has been a contributor to Food Link for many years, but given the current crisis the Board of Directors has instituted an initiative to step up our efforts to help feed the hungry in our midst.  It is not only the right thing to do from a socially conscious point of view, it is a Jewish imperative.

 From Biblical times the Jewish people have been commanded to attend to the needs of those less fortunate.  In Leviticus we are taught: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field to its border, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest.  And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.”

 It was immaterial whether or not the needy were members of the “tribe,” because the obligation stems from the axiomatic truth that all human beings are created בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים, “in the image of God” and a corollary that “for this reason was Adam created alone, to teach us that whosoever destroys a single soul, the Torah regards as guilty as though he had destroyed an entire world; and whosoever preserves a single soul the Torah ascribes merit to him as though he had preserved an entire world.” (Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 37a)

 We also know from our Yom Kippur liturgy, contemplated on a day of total fasting, that our actions in caring for our fellow human beings, specifically tending to the needs of the hungry and poor are central to the Jewish world view and Divine expectation.  “Is not this the fast I look for: to unlock the shackles of injustice, to undo the fetters of bondage, to let the oppressed go free, and break every cruel chain?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and to bring the homeless poor into your house?  When you see the naked, to clothe them, and never to hide yourself from your own kin.” (Isaiah 58:5-7).

Please respond generously to the CBD Initiative to aid “Food Link.”  Barrels for your nonperishable food contributions are conveniently located in the sanctuary lobby. Checks can be made out to either Food Link or CBD with a notation that it is to go to Food Link.  Go to for further information and important links.

 We will not end hunger in Tulare County, but this is no excused to inaction.  The Talmud teaches us in Pirkei Avot (great ethical teachings from our ancestors) that “It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it.”