You shall not remain indifferent

This week's Torah portion, Ki Teitze, takes up a relevant set of questions: what should you do upon discovering that your neighbor has lost property, or is waylaid on a journey? Whether the property is an ox or a donkey or a garment, whether the neighbor is your friend or your enemy, the Torah teaches that you have an obligation to assist, even if that means going out of your way, exerting great effort, or incurring expense. "Lo tuchal l'hitalem," the text states emphatically in Deuteronomy 22:3: "You must not remain indifferent!" (Some of you may recognize this quote as the one we chose to print on the large Kavana banner we've marched under at various rallies over the course of this year!)

We are saddened and horrified by the tragedy that's currently unfolding in the Houston area in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.  So much of eastern Texas is under water that it's hard to fathom the scale; there are countless stories of loss and human terror; and it's clear that the worst is not even over! It will take the Houston area and Texas coast many years to recover from this widespread devastation. 

This week's Torah portion, Ki Teitze, takes up a relevant set of questions: what should you do upon discovering that your neighbor has lost property, or is waylaid on a journey? Whether the property is an ox or a donkey or a garment, whether the neighbor is your friend or your enemy, the Torah teaches that you have an obligation to assist, even if that means going out of your way, exerting great effort, or incurring expense. "Lo tuchal l'hitalem," the text states emphatically in Deuteronomy 22:3: "You must not remain indifferent!"  (Some of you may recognize this quote as the one we chose to print on the large Kavana banner we've marched under at various rallies over the course of this year!)

Over the coming weeks, months, and years, we will find opportunities to help with relief efforts in a variety of ways. And, we will continue raising our voices in concern about climate change, and lobbying our elected officials to stop damaging our planet... hopefully before it's too late to make a difference!  But, for right now, while waters are still rising in parts of the Houston area, the most effective thing most of us can do is to give money to organizations that will be working on the ground and making a direct and efficient impact. There are plenty of disaster aid organizations that are probably solid choices for anyone looking to help, but if you want to direct your contributions through a Jewish organization, we recommend either the Relief Fund at the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, or the Hebrew Free Loan Society, which will be making interest free loans to help people rebuild their lives.

The millions of residents of eastern Texas will be in our thoughts and prayers this week, but -- as we've said over and over again with regard to other issues -- our prayers are not enough.  As Jews, we must not remain indifferent... we have an obligation to take action and offer assistance in the face of our neighbor's suffering.