In the days before Passover, I was saddened by the Notre Dame fire. As I was busy feeling terrible, I found myself personally challenged by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz’s Facebook post.
He argued that we as Americans should be less worried about the loss of a building, and more concerned about “the oppression of invisible people around the world.” Rabbi Shmuly cited a story from Leviticus Rabbah about the Romans giving better treatment to stone columns than to the poor. I was stopped in my tracks, and immediately stopped thinking of the fire as a “tragedy.” Instead, it became something I am sad about.
Then, I read about some of the backlash against the billion dollars pledged by the ultra wealthy to rebuild the cathedral. While some of the criticism is overblown, I personally agree with those who point out that if we can find money for a building, we can find money to deal with societal inequality and poverty.
Which brings us back to Passover. The story we tell every year is a central narrative of Jewish peoplehood. Throughout the Torah, we are asked to remember that we were slaves in the land of Egypt, as it says “You too must befriend (love) the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:19).”
When we were slaves, we too were invisible.
This Passover, let us channel our emotions from Notre Dame fire to remember the forgotten and invisible people all over the world. When we see and remember, how can we not act?
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Photo by Olivier Mabelly via Flickr CC