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Moses' Persistence & Our Persistent Fight Against Hunger
A dvar torah from Shirley Davidoff, Vice Chair of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.
As I read this parsha, I saw many parallels in the how we advocate for those who continue to suffer malnourishment, food insecurity and hunger.
Moses focused on one issue- achieving freedom. MAZON is focused on one issue – ending hunger.
Moses confronted Pharaoh to raise awareness of their slavery and challenged Pharaoh to change his policies or rules. We, at MAZON, are engaged in education and advocacy which raises awareness about the prevalence of hunger in America and protects the most vulnerable among us.
G-d empowered Moses to speak for him and be the voice for all Israelites to help advance their mission for freedom. We, at MAZON, provide partnership grants to empower front line organizations to speak out and help us advance OUR mission.
G-d, with Moses as his ambassador, skillfully implemented his strategic plan to gain the Israelites freedom, thus changing the course of history. We, at MAZON, introduce and implement strategic initiatives to enhance knowledge and capacity hoping to change the course of OUR history.
Pharaoh was complacent and unsympathetic because it was easier to leave things as is. He followed the path laid out for him by previous Pharaohs that lead to our 430 years of enslavement. Releasing the Israelites would require him to “act” and would be hard work for him and his country. We, at MAZON, ask and demand change to right the path of apathy and complacency. We ask synagogue partners to engage in Seders, the very story of this parsha and of those in the coming weeks. We ask them to write letters, sign postcards, and speak out on local, statewide and national hunger issues. We ask our donors to give us THEIR voice, as well as their money. We ask because we are sympathetic.
Pharaoh challenged Moses and G-d for his own interest. Surely his people could starve without slaves to farm their fields and work their herds and flocks. He challenged Moses and G-d because his reputation was at stake - but G-d continued to push. WE, at MAZON, challenge. We challenge the authority of our elected officials to better serve the American people and not to reduce the deficit by reducing vital programs like SNAP. We challenge those same elected officials to pass morally responsible and ethical laws. These laws, like the Farm Bill, are crucial to safeguarding those that are hungry today as well as protect those who MIGHT be hungry tomorrow. We challenge the officials, lobbyist, and organizations that have their self-interest in mind, calling them out to be accountable for all individuals, not just a select few. This is what WE, at MAZON, stand for.
We have an army of advocates who work to achieve policy changes to remove barriers, particularly for the young and old, much like Moses advocated for all people, young and old. We, at MAZON, want nutritious meals to be distributed by the Emergency Food Assistance Program/ year round school breakfast and lunches to support our children’s mental and physical growth/ incentives for small farmers to make their products more accessible. These are the barriers WE want removed.
And much like Moses who persisted against injustice, we, at MAZON, have the strength, the numbers and the voice to advocate for those WE want to “free” – the 50 million Americans, including 17 million children, plus millions more worldwide, who are hungry.
G-d told Moses to recount this story of our Exodus from slavery to freedom to his sons and grandsons so they would know G-d’s presence. Likewise, MAZON must publicize our successes and continue the fight against hunger so OUR sons and grandsons, daughters and granddaughters can live in a world without hunger. WE are the link between the past and the future. The story of where WE are going and what WE want to accomplish is as important as where we have been.
This week’s parsha – Bo - continues the epic story of our freedom from slavery with the final 3 plagues: locust, darkness and the slaying of the first borne and details the specifics of the Passover meal and eating of unleavened bread. This parsha clearly illustrates the power struggle between Moses, who was prepped by G-d to demand the Israelites’ release from Egypt, and Pharaoh, whose heart was hardened and refused to comply. Moses’ and Pharaoh’s conversations continued before and after the locust swarmed and the darkness fell, each time ending as it did before, without compromise and a defiant “NO”. Although Pharaoh’s courtiers’ pleaded for the plagues to end and normality to be restored, Pharaoh would not budge from his decision. This stalemate on both sides showed Pharaoh’s and Moses’ steadfast determination to represent their people, but each for completely different reasons and results. When Moses approached Pharaoh to release the Israelites from bondage, Pharaoh would ask “….Who Are the ones to go?” and Moses firmly replied “We will all go, young and old. We will go with our sons and daughters, our flocks and herds”. Thus, no one would be left behind and no one would continue to suffer in slavery.
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