Rabbi Shapiro's Shabbat Message - October 22, 2021

  • Clergy
  • Shabbat

It seems like the world is coming apart at the seams and lawlessness and wickedness are rampant—at least that’s what God seems to think in this week’s Torah portion when planning to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Abraham, having just become the very first Jew, learns of God’s plans and argues on behalf of the innocent people—negotiating with God not to throw out the good with the bad—pleading with God to save the innocent. Abraham sees the good. For him, the good must outweigh the bad.
It’s easier said than done. It’s so easy to let the bad obscure the good. We read the papers and watch the news. Kidnappings in Haiti, wildfires and drought across the state, a salmonella outbreak linked to onions, we’re battling systemic racism, the problems of policing, not to mention the disheartening state of our politics. And all the while the pandemic continues to rage, affecting nearly every aspect of our lives.
But, like Abraham, to be a Jew is to see the good. There’s a practice called Hakarat HaTov, which is often translated as “gratitude” but it literally means to “recognize the good,” and, while it’s not always obvious, there is so much good in our world.
Jade Powell is a student at University of Nevada and she got an idea to organize a few volunteers to help out during the pandemic when her mother mentioned calling elderly neighbors to see whether they needed anything. She started “Shopping Angels” by enlisting 20 members of her sorority to shop for groceries for older adults. As the need grew, she recruited more volunteers. When she discovered how many elderly folks live in poverty, she started a GoFundMe page to raise money to help those would couldn’t afford their groceries. She now has volunteers across the country.
Basira Popul is a polio worker in Afghanistan. For years she’s traveled from home to home to help vaccinate children. When COVID hit, she had to stop her work in order to keep social distance, but that didn’t stop Basira. She got together with her fellow workers and started distributing bars of soap and giving hygiene lessons to curb the spread of the virus. To date, they’ve distributed more than one million bars of soap to keep families safe.

Ethel Branch lives on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. When the first cases of coronavirus were reported in the Navajo and Hopi Reservations, she realized how many elderly neighbors she had living without electricity or running water who would need support. She resigned from her job at a law firm and started a GoFundMe page and built an organization called Navajo Hopi Solidarity to help bring relief to the elderly, single parents, and struggling families. So far, she’s raised over five million dollars and has assisted more than 5000 families across the Reservations.

Just this week, five Sikh hikers in British Columbia used their turbans to save two men who unexpectedly fell into a pool of water beneath a waterfall. “We were trying to think how we could get them out, but we didn’t know how to,” one of the Sikhs said. “So, we walked for about 10 minutes to find help and then came up with the idea to tie our turbans together…in Sikhi, we are taught to help someone in any way we can with anything we have, even our turban.”
One of my favorite readings in our prayerbook often brings me comfort.
The good in us will win,
over all the wickedness, over all the wrongs we have done.
We will look back at the pages of written history, and be amazed,
and then we will laugh and sing,
and the good that is in us, children in their cradles, will have won.
This week, the very first Jew, with one of his very first actions, reminds us that the good must always—always outweigh the bad.
Shabbat Shalom,