Friday, 25 August, 2023 - 3:41 pm

A couple weeks ago I received a phone call from a community member. Their son had tragically passed away suddenly in Germany. They were at a loss – both emotionally and logistically. They quickly bought a ticket and boarded a plane, but had no idea how to organize on the ground. Where would they bury their son? How would they navigate the labyrinth bureaucracy in Germany without even speaking the language? The sudden death meant that he police were involved. They were simply overwhelmed. Their other son was also en-route to Germany.

As they traveled, we kept in touch. I immediately called my colleague, Rabbi Yudi Tiechtel in Berlin. But, I could not get through. I sent an email and did not get an immediate response.

Hours later, he called. He himself was on a flight to Israel and called me right after he landed.  

He told me not to worry. His contacts on the ground would help.

Meanwhile, the family was told that, due to paperwork and formalities, it might be months before their son’s body was released. That was unthinkable. I immediately contacted Rabbi Tiechtel’s people on the ground. Through conference calls and the valiant efforts of family members, we started to see the needle move.

Through a series of events and providential arrangements, we were able to bring the body to Boise. Today, he was laid to rest with a proper Jewish funeral.

Among my remarks at the funeral, I told how humbled I was to be a part of Klal Yisrael, the Jewish people. Individuals who never met the deceased worked tirelessly from around the globe to ensure that a fellow Jew was brought to his final resting place. We are all part of one whole.

As I reflected on the amazing bond and supra-rational expression of love and belonging these individuals displayed to a total stranger, I began to realize the importance of the Torah’s admonition at the end of this week’s parsha, Ki Teitzei.  The Torah instructs us never to forget the actions of Amalek, the nation that attacked the Jewish people on their journey out of Egypt.

The Sages teach us that the great sin of Amalek was the sheer Chutzpah that they had in attacking the Jewish people at a time when they were ‘untouchable.’  This, the Rabbis explain, stems from cold indifference.  They simply shrugged off the success and miracles of the exodus from Egypt.

The Torah warns us never to forget, lest we too fall prey to such attitudes.  It’s simply too easy to say, “Who cares?”  Or, “Why not just settle for less?” Or, “What difference can I make anyway?”

The Torah teaches, we must always be moved to reach out to another. We must always believe that one small act can create a world of difference.  This is the quintessential Jewish attitude that I was humbled to witness. 

It is this spirit that prepares us for the New Year. Instead of indifference, we march toward Rosh Hashanah reaching deep into ourselves and other with a world of difference.

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