Tuesday, September 21, 2010

NJ Walk/Bike MS Awards Picnic

Meetings of Jewish community organizations usually start with a D’var Torah—a short presentation of religious study most often based on the weekly Torah reading. This fulfills our obligation to study, and gets the meeting off on the right foot.

This past Sunday Laura and I attended a picnic presentation of awards to thank top fundraisers in this year’s New Jersey Multiple Sclerosis Society Walk MS and Bike MS events. The awards were presented in the picnic area of the TD Bank Ballpark before a Somerset Patriots baseball game. Sitting in the hot sun, a little too hot for those of us with MS, I began thinking about what an appropriate D’var Torah would be for this albeit secular event.

So, borrowing heavily from one of Rabbi Benjamin Goldstein’s Rosh Hashanah sermons:

There are some interesting and instructive parallels between the way God addresses Abraham through an angel averting the sacrifice of the Isaac, and the way He addresses Moses when Moses had “turned aside” to investigate the Burning Bush. In both cases God repeats the name of the addressee, “Abraham, Abraham” and “Moses, Moses.” Why, the rabbis asked, would God have to call each man’s name twice? They concluded that they were each intently engaged doing something they perceived as very important, but God wanted to be sure to get their attention for something of higher importance. It seems to have worked. Moses and Abraham both responded to God’s summons by replying, “Heneini,” “Here I am.” They heard, responded, and were ready to act.

That’s what life is all about—People hearing a voice calling on them to fulfill a need, and responding “Here I am.” The Jewish concept of Tikun Olam holds that Man is God’s partner in completing the work of creation. It is up to each of us to respond “Here I Am” even if we have to be called by name twice to break our concentration on the urgencies that fill our daily lives.

As I listened to the accomplishments of all the walkers, bikers and team leaders who reached out to their friends and families to raise money this year, it was uplifting to realize that so many people have responded “Here I am.” May they all “go from strength to strength.”