There are now nearly 8 billion people in the world. If you think of that 8 billion like a 100 dollar bill, 30 dollars would be Christian, 18 dollars would be Muslim, 13 Hindu, and 6 Buddhist. 33 dollars would be a combination of other religions. 25 cents of the 100 dollars would be Jewish. We are one-quarter of one percent of the world’s population. Small… but far from insignificant. One-quarter of one percent of the world’s population yet we are 30 percent of all Nobel prize winners… we have been at the forefront of so many great achievements in history, philosophy, science, medicine, business, the arts, law, entertainment… you name it, Jews have transformed it. The great American anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of concerned people can change the world…indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Jews and Judaism are about changing the world.
Our Torah has called us to action for more than 3,000 years; "Justice, justice we must pursue..." Caring for those less fortunate than we are is at the core of who we are as a people… God chose Abraham and Sarah, saying their descendants would be as numerous as the sands of the earth and the stars in the sky through justice and righteousness. If we are truly to be a light unto the nations, the only way for that light to shine is to pursue justice and righteousness, kindness and compassion. On Yom Kippur, we will read from the prophet Isaiah as he challenges us to share our bread with the hungry, give clothes to those in need, take the poor into our lives, and free the oppressed. Then and only then will our light shine in the darkness and burst through like the dawn.
A young congregant of ours named Ari recently said to me after a long day of religious school teacher training, “You know rabbi, being Jewish is hard work. Learning from my family and teachers, then teaching the younger kids at religious school is a big responsibility. A four thousand-year chain of tradition is heavy, but who am I to break it?" Ari is right. He matters to the Jewish future and to the world. We all do.
There is a story about a king who lived by the motto: Not my problem. “There are people in the kingdom who are thirsty? Not my problem, I have plenty of water. There are people in the kingdom who are hungry? Not my problem, I have plenty of food.” And as the king treated his people, the people treated each other.
But there was one person, a fisherman, who had enough of this. He took his largest boat, cleaned it, made it beautiful, and invited the entire kingdom for a wonderful day of sailing on the lake. Everyone came including the king. People were eating, laughing, having so much fun. And at the height of the party, the fisherman walked to the middle of the boat with a drill in his hand and started drilling. Everyone including the king started to panic.
The king yelled, “Fisherman, what are you doing?”
“I’m drilling a hole in my boat!” the fisherman answered.
“If you drill a hole in the boat, the boat will sink and we will all drown!” shouted the panicking king.
“Not my problem,” said the fisherman. "I have a life jacket and know how to swim."
“Not your problem?” the king screamed. “Of course it’s your problem. It’s everyone’s problem. We are all going to drown if you don’t stop drilling because we’re all in the same boat!”
The Torah understood. The prophet Isaiah understood, Ari understands... We may be only one-quarter of one percent of the world’s population, but we are in this together. Let’s change the world this year because we are all in the same boat.
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah.