Fasting and Social Justice

The following is a “dvar torah” I presented during the Yom Kippur prayers at Kehillat Kol HaNeshama in Jerusalem.

Last summer, in August, I hosted an iftar seminar and dinner at Mishkenot Sha’ananim  in Jerusalem, in cooperation with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, for Jews, Christians and Muslims in Israel. This was the second year that ICCI hosted such an event.

At the panel before the break-the-fast dinner (which Muslims call “iftar”), a kadi, a priest and a rabbi all talked about the connection of fasting to social consciousness. Two of the 3 speakers (the rabbi—who happens to be the rabbi of this synagogue and one of the co-chairpersons of ICCI– and the priest, who share the same Holy Book), referred to the prophet Isaiah in general and to the chapter we read this morning in particular, Chapter 57 (from what scholars call Second Isaiah).

This chapter is one of the most beautiful and powerful in all of prophetic literature. The Rabbis chose it for Yom Kippur because of its clear message about the purpose of fasting.  We read it every year at this time. Does it affect us? Does it transform or enhance or social consciousness? Does it move Us to action? Continue reading

Redeeming Captives–A Win-Win Compromise Agreement

The redemption of captives (Pidyon Shvuyim) is one of the great mitzvot (commandments) of Judaism, but not at any price. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister and Government of Israel decided to exchange more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners-a very high price-for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, who had become a household name in Israel during the past 5 1/2 years, due the successful popular movement for his release, led by his wonderful parents, Noam and Aviva Shalit.

This happened just before the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. While sitting over coffee on Emek Refaim St., in the German Colony on the day before the holiday-the day before his release-I was asked by a journalist who was writing a story on this what I thought about it.  Continue reading