In this week’s Torah portion we read the controversial story of Abraham taking his son Isaac to the top of a mountain and offering him as a sacrifice   Abraham does this because he is told by God to take his son to the top of the mountain and do this to him. The Torah teaches us that this was a test given to Abraham by God. This test this demand, to take his son to the top of the mountain and offer him as a sacrifice Is something that many argue Abraham passes. They argue this because Abraham does as God tells him to do. There are others, like myself who argue that Abraham failed the test because God truly wanted Abraham to say “NO I will not do this!” But tonight, I don’t want to talk about whether Abraham failed or passed the test. Tonight, I want to talk about whether or not we have passed or failed the test.

And what test am I talking about? Obviously, as far as I know, none of us have been contacted by God and asked to take our child to the top of the mountain and offer him or her as a sacrifice. And if we were I would hope that we would say “NO!” and of course seek psychiatric help immediately! The test that I am talking about comes in a different form. And when I tell you what the test is some of you might be horrified for a few minutes until you hear me out. The test that I am wondering if we have passed or failed has already been given to us.  We just haven’t completed it yet.  This test came in the form of Hurricane Sandy.

Now you know that I don’t believe in a God that creates natural disasters to punish people. I don’t believe in a God that actively seeks to punish, harm or hurt anyone. But I do believe that a natural disaster has occurred and God is now watching us and observing how we respond to this horrific event.  God did not create the test. Mother nature created the test. But God wants to see if we pass or fail.

So how do we pass the test. Given that Judaism teaches us we are God’s partners being responsible for bringing about Tikun Olam, healing of the world, it seems obvious how we can pass this test. We open up our hearts and our pocketbooks and give to the charitable organizations that are out there doing the relief work. I sent you earlier today and will continue to update you on incredible social service agencies, restaurants and other types of organizations that are on the front lines, in the trenches, with the people of New Jersey, New York City, Staten Island – doing things, practical things, to make a real difference right now.

We’ve all seen the images on tv, the pictures in the newspapers the first-hand accounts of people sharing their stories from the storm I watched on television this morning as they interviewed a woman who had only $15 to her name. No credit cards. Her house was destroyed. She had no clothing. She had no food. She was in her car trying to fill it up with gas so that she could go and get food for her children.

You probably saw the images yesterday of people in New York City the heart of the world one of the most affluent locations in the world, doing what they call “dumpster diving” – diving in a large dumpster outside of a grocery store to find food to feed themselves and their family

You’re hearing the stories of people who have no electricity or are trapped in their apartments and have nobody to turn to. It is a nightmare

And we are being given a test. Are we going to pass?

I’m pretty certain that most of us in this room are going to make some sort of a donation to help the people up north. But is this enough for us to pass the test?

And what exactly is this modern test? Is it simply about how we respond to Hurricane Sandy?

What do we do with the fact that  today, right now:

  •  3.1 million people will go to bed hungry.  
  • 1.1 million of these will be children.  Children going to bed hungry.

What do we do with the fact that today, right now:

  • 75,000 people are completely without a home.  With nothing.  No roof over their head.  And the cold weather is coming.

What do we do with the fact that today, right now:

  •  For those with homes – many are struggling with lack of electricity and damage in the homes.

What do we do with the fact that today, right now:

  • Countless people can’t get prescriptions filled.

I talked to one lady yesterday, let’s call her Dora, she had $5 to her name.  She couldn’t buy gas.  Couldn’t buy groceries for her 3 children.

What do we do with this information?  These startling facts?

What we do with these facts and how we do our part to solve them – this will determine whether we pass the test…..

And here is the key:  Dora – the lady with $5 to her name, she lives in Plantation.  She can’t buy groceries for her kids here.  The 3.1 million people who go to bed hungry, the 1.1 million being children – those are for people living in Florida.  And the 75,000 homeless, again, that applies to Florida.

What happened in New York and New Jersey is horrific.  Shocking!  The images are bombarding us daily.  We want to act and we SHOULD act.  But acting for those affected by Sandy – that won’t allow us to pass this test.  Sandy – our test – should open our eyes to the reality that the nightmare we see on tv – it takes other forms and plays out right in our own back yard.  It is called human suffering.  And it is here in Florida, in Broward, in Plantation – at Ramat Shalom.  Some of you know Dora.

We pass the test when we truly partner with Gd and make Tikun Olam – healing the world – an on going activity in our lives.  When we don’t rely upon others to help people.  We do it ourselves.  We don’t think of human suffering as something that happens THERE – but something that takes place HERE.  We pass the test when we truly become aware of the struggle of others and open our pocketbooks if we can – but also, and more importantly, our eyes and ears and hearts and souls to the pain that exists all around us – right now!

We need to let our test – Hurricane Sandy – burst our ideal little bubble and allow us to realize that many of the struggles in NY and NJ are daily struggles for so many people all over.  If we allow this to happen, if we allow that bubble to burst – we will pass the test.


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