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“An Extraordinary Welcome from the Heart,” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

Friday, November 5, 2021 / 1 Kislev 5782

Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we draw near to Shabbat.

On Tuesday night around midnight, Temple Israel volunteers, representing dozens more, stood by the baggage claim awaiting an Afghan family assigned to our congregation. Around six weeks before, the clergy announced from the bima on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that we again had the chance to engage in the mitzvah of welcoming the stranger, of redeeming refugees, of opening our hearts to a family looking for safety in the Boston community. Our congregation mobilized quickly in preparation. Compassionate souls stepped up and joined the various groups who would have the responsibility and honor to help settle this family. It would not be easy. They come with a status that does not provide the same services as refugees. They are called Humanitarian parolees. And yet, hundreds of Temple Israel volunteers have already worked hard to get an apartment readied and to lay the groundwork for the right path for them.

Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai asked his disciples, “What is the right path?” They responded with all kinds of answers, but the one that struck the Rabbi as the most true and inclusive came from Elazar ben Arach. “The right path,” he offered is a good heart. (Pirkei Avot 2:9) The commentator, Bartenura explained the choice: since the heart is the generator of all the other forces, it is the source from which emanate all of the actions.

We have seen the heart in motion already in magnificent ways, like the volunteers who generously gave of their full selves when we welcomed a Syrian refugee family five years ago. Those involved now are paving the way with compassion, love, and great kindness.

We know that the path for this family will be circuitous with many turns, and we know that there are many gifts from the heart that will ease the challenges they may face. This is just the beginning.

Do you want to support this effort? You can help by

  1. Signing up to donate one of these items.
  2. Contributing to the Refugee Resettlement Fund (select “Refugee Resettlement” in drop down menu
  3. Donating gift cards (e.g. grocery store, Target, Home Goods). You can send e-gift cards to tputerman@tisrael.org or drop off at Temple Israel Attn: Tali Puterman Afghan Resettlement

Shabbat Shalom!


Connect with me here. I look forward to corresponding with you and to hearing your thoughts.