Today, many people around the UK are focussed on Children in Need and the fundraising marathon this evening. It is laudable and heart-warming, but reminds me of the difference between charity and the Jewish mitzvot of Tzedakah and Gemilut Chasadim. If we make a donation to Children in Need, then there is a risk that we go to sleep thinking “job done!”. We might feel we’ve done our bit to support needy children. Do give, but remember that’s only charity.
Our Judaism requires us to go further. Tzedakah, often translated as charity, actually means ‘justice’ – we should take actions daily that help bring social justice into being. Gemilut chasadim goes even further. As the late and much lamented Rabbi Jonathan Sacks reminded us, the word Chesed defied translation into English, so sixteenth century Bible translator William Tyndale invented a new word “lovingkindness”.
We have grouped our care activities under the title Chesed, because lovingkindness is one of the hallmarks for which we want ELELS to be known. Mitzvah Day on Sunday is an annual focus on acts of lovingkindness, while we want this to be a daily focus for all of us. This evening’s service at Northwood will remind us that remembrance is a mitzvah, and we can also join AJEX at their annual Remembrance service on Sunday afternoon. Tomorrow morning, our Shelanu service will focus on allyship and the power of the group. I’m also delighted that our Cheder is baking cakes tomorrow to be delivered the local Christian-based foster home Mill Grove on Sunday. Please join in with any or all of these services and activities.
Further, in the coming couple of weeks, our volunteers will be kindly phoning every membership household to check in on you – how are the latest twists and turns of this pandemic affecting you? How can we, as a community, extend further lovingkindness to any and all of our members who need support? The simple answer is: With everyone helping, we will spread comfort, support, care and, yes, Chesed / lovingkindness.
Rabbi Richard Jacobi