Allow me to state the obvious: the weeks leading up to Pesach are a time for thinking about food. That’s not only my very Jewish opinion—it’s my assertion as a designated foodie. This might sound ridiculously obvious, but the case deserves to be made anew: thinking about food is profoundly Jewish. Worrying about the feeding of others has been the purview of the Jewish woman since time immemorial, and the need to combine food with both elevated consciousness and a sense of commandedness is, basically, the root of kashrut (and the basis for Jew-foodie-ism). What you eat matters, how you eat matters, when you eat matters, and how that food got to you certainly matters. Straightforward, no?
I am swayed by this argument, not least of all because I like to frame my own food preoccupations—the local/organic/free-trade/non-GMO—as channeling the Jewish imperatives towards consciousness and justice through the too-often downplayed power of consumer purchases. You can’t avoid buying food, I always say, so why not buy food that works toward the greater good?
Of course, I forget about those who can’t buy food in that neat little construction, which is why I’m glad that there are things like AJWS’s Global Hunger Shabbat to help remind me. Global Hunger Shabbat, coming up this weekend, is “a day of solidarity, education, reflection and activism to raise awareness about global hunger.” As we prepare to invite “all those who are hungry” to our tables symbolically, we have a chance to do some learning, some communal and personal planning and committing, to the cause of global hunger—to the simple idea that there are people whose most basic human needs go unmet, and that that is wrong. That we have the power to do something about it. And more than just the power—perhaps the imperative.
AJWS seems more and more drawn to providing Jewish substance for the work they do, the work they enable and the work they encourage all of us am ha’aretz folks to join in on. Whether or not you’ve signed up for the Shabbat experience itself, check out the fantastic resources AJWS provides. They’ve got me thinking not only about the biblical roots of attending to the hunger of others as we are able to, but about the nature of our obligation. Tzedek, a word not infrequently tossed around, is generally accepted to translate in all its intricacy to “justice,” and justice is not optional. Without wandering off into theology, basically a Jew exists to serve God and strive for justice. Putting the tzedek back into tzedakah puts us on the hook to look at these issues with new eyes and a new sense of dedication. Without wandering off into sociological history, it also allows us to further elevate the still-underplayed role that so many Jewish women have committed themselves to throughout the ages: filling those bellies that need filling. Sounds like a good deal to me.