Shavuot A Reminder of Hunger In America
Shavuot is not the first holiday that comes to mind when someone asks me about Jewish holidays. When I’m asked about my faith, I usually talk about Shabbat services and dinner with my family, regaling them with stories about my family’s obsession with making the utmost of the roast chicken we have every Shabbat (it’s an Olympic sport in my family). Yet as we approach Shavuot, more and more I think it exemplifies much of the best that Judaism has to offer.
On Shavuot we celebrate the handing down of the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mt. Sinai with a late night marathon of Torah study while binging on dairy favorites, like blintzes or fruit and cheese. Some offer a more modern twist: cheesecake and The Ten Commandments.
Food and education have long been central elements of my experience with Judaism. But Shavuot is also a holiday commemorating the summer harvest, which provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the words of Leviticus 23:22: “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger.”
In the time of the Israelites, whose society was based in agriculture, it was easy to tell how well-off someone was; the amount of land and food they owned was obvious. Today, hunger is a better-hidden evil. It can be too easy to fall through the cracks—indeed, nearly one in five Americans could not afford enough food last year. Leviticus 23:22 reminds us that today as much as in years past, we all share in the obligation to ensure that no one goes hungry.
As Congress moves forward in shaping the latest iteration of the Farm Bill, which governs critical anti-hunger programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), we must work to ensure that all Americans are afforded the same compassion the Israelites extended to one another many years ago—a solemn commitment that no one should go hungry. Tell Congress today to support critical anti-hunger programs in the 2012 Farm Bill.