Rabbi Jamie’s Corner
I am sitting outside in early July enjoying the unusually cool weather. It’s the time of year that brings to mind watermelon, corn-on-the-cob, and sunlight until almost 10 pm. School is out, and many of us are enjoying some time off, and perhaps a change of scenery. In Jewish time (time spent according to the Jewish calendar), we are heading towards Tisha b’Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.
Tisha b’Av falls on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. Tradition holds that both the First and Second Israelite Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed on this day in 586 B.C.E. and 70 C.E., respectively. With the loss of the Second Temple, the Israelites were no longer able to make the daily sacrifices that were at the center of their religious practice and communal connection to God. Over time, prayer evolved to replace sacrifice as the core way that the Israelites, who came to be known as the Jews, connected to God.
Unexpected disasters are something with which we at Hebrew Free Loan are all too familiar. People in our community come to us for assistance in the aftermath of fires, floods, earthquakes, and more. Our interest-free Disaster Relief loans help with immediate needs or longer-term recovery costs related to a natural disaster and can help with emergency living expenses, business losses, rebuilding or replacing a home that’s been destroyed, and more. When an unexpected disaster strikes, it’s easy to feel blindsided and ask “How could this happen?” Having one’s foundation rocked can cause a lack of faith in the future. But we are here to help.
Hebrew Free Loan is a secular organization, and yet our mission to provide interest-free loans sprouted from teachings found in the Torah. The Torah teaches that we are created in the image of God. Yet there’s no one answer to what that means, and we could spend decades exploring and debating the nature of God. Is there a God? If yes, is God sentient and does God act in history, etc.? As a Reconstructionist, I personally see God as the impulse that drives us forward, to love and to do good. We express that impulse through our actions and through the work of our hands to build a better world. We express it when we come together to help one another.
I am extremely proud of the work of Hebrew Free Loan and the good that comes out of interest-free loans to help people pursue an education, start a business that can sustain a family, or rebuild a home after a devastating fire. The board, the staff, and the donors who make our work possible are pulled to do good, channeling their energy and their financial resources to help others and make our world a better place. Some would call this pull God, others might call it ethics and values, and others might say it is just the right thing to do. Tisha b’Av reminds us that we may be shaken to our core by events beyond our control, but through those dark days, in our times of need, Hebrew Free Loan and our community are here to help.
Rabbi Jamie Hyams, our Development Director, received her rabbinic ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion, CA. We’ve asked Rabbi Jamie to occasionally share her perspective with our community. Jamie can be reached for questions, comments, or further dialogue at firstname.lastname@example.org.