From Yom Kippur – “Freeing the Captive”

An excerpt from my Yom Kippur Morning sermon. Perhaps even more important now.

[One way to practice] matir asurim (the core Jewish value of freeing the captive), is to be liberated from indifference to global responsibility. We have seen terrible images of refugees fleeing the Civil War in Syria. Those who have been lucky enough to escape, avoiding ISIS, find themselves with nowhere to go.  This is not a new problem, but it grabbed our attention recently. We have seen footage of Syrian men and women just trying to survive. It came into greater focus when the world saw a young boy washed up on a beach after his boat capsized near Turkey. That one image shocked us in a particular. In t-shirt and sneakers, he could have been any one of our own kids. The suffering no longer seemed so far away. We began to be freed from the shackles of indifference. But still, we might doubt. These are Syrians. We might assume that they hold strong opinions against America, Jews, and Israel. We may just say, therefore, leave them alone, and let other people deal with the problem. But this is where responsibility meets opportunity. If we were no longer to see this crisis as a regional problem, but rather as a global problem, then we can actually shape hearts and minds of a new generation. There is power in education. There is great reward in extending a helping hand. If we as Jewish Americans who support Israel step up to the plate, speaking up for Muslims half a world away, then we can help chip away at the false image they have been given. They and we can look upon each other as we really are. We can gain allies among those who might otherwise fall prey militants or terrorists. It is indeed a global problem, one over which we can exercise some control, if we look past geography, race, and culture, and see people in need. In coming months, here in Lincoln, we will likely see an influx of refugees. We will have the opportunity to meet these people face to face.  Then we can practice matir asurim, liberating each other from indifference as we share the best of ourselves.