A Reflection by Rabbi Margaret Holub (Albion, CA)

To the beloved minyan forming to fast for Gaza,

I find myself thinking of all of you – those of you I know and those I don’t. I feel a bit of kinship with each of you – Jews, Christians, Moslems, none-of-the-above, clergy, layfolk -- as we launch ourselves into this invitation we’ve each accepted: to fast, to contribute to the milk fund and to hope that somehow something will shift somewhere on account of our gesture. Still, it doesn’t seem like much, does it? Not eating for a day a month, signing onto a website, sending the cost of our day’s feeding to ANERA. The imbalance between Gaza’s immense hunger and our small, symbolic response is stark.

I remember many years ago, being at a conference on urban hunger. I was at the time involved in what I thought was a mighty struggle to address poverty and homelessness where I lived, and I was pretty indignant at the bags and notebooks and all the crap of conferences, and the feeble, bureaucratic ideas being brainstormed onto white boards. In one such small group, in a basement classroom, we were charged to “imagine a solution.” I was seething. Until an elderly nun in full habit smiled sweetly and said, “We could pray for an end to hunger.” At which point I volunteered my indignation to my group. The nun continued unfazed. “I was concerned about poverty in (such-and-such a city), so I began to pray every day. And God gave me the idea to start a soup kitchen. And now we serve (some large number) of people each day. So I continued to pray. And God gave me the idea to start a shelter, which now…”

Fasting, as distinct from rallying or protesting or organizing, is a gesture of abjection. It says that we are horrified by what is happening, and we beg the heavens to make it stop. We know that our sins have helped to bring the nightmare about, but we feel out of control to make it cease.

This invitation to fast about Gaza came quickly. I already have plans for July 16. So I will be doing my regular day while not eating. And as I pack boxes with family members who are moving house, which is my day’s activity, I imagine that I will be praying quietly – which in my case will probably mean ruminating about Gaza and what details of the siege I am aware of, and allowing my own inner sadness, helplessness, shame and – what’s the word for outrage that includes myself among the perpetrators? frustration, writ large – to rise closer to the surface of my consciousness than I usually let it. As it does, I will be trying in my own klutzy, distractible way to importune God – the inner God – ‘What teshuvah can I possibly do? How can I rectify some piece of the catastrophe of Gaza?’

And I suspect that I will be thinking, again in as much detail as I know, about each of you, feeling that I am not alone with this question. All of us, in our various ways, will be knocking on heaven’s door at the same time.

Some of you will be going outward, standing somewhere, saying something. Others will be davvening, chanting, meditating, studying sacred texts, reading news and history and politics. And some like me will be continuing on with our plans, invisible in our commitment. But all of us, by dedicating this day each month as we are, make ourselves available to the cosmos for interventions we cannot predict. Who knows who any of us will meet that day, what conversation will occur, what idea will arise?

I am hopeful that between us, among us and within each of us, we will begin to find steps we can take to shake more energetically at the foundations of the siege of Gaza. And that we will find strength, again among and within ourselves, to act strongly without fatigue or despair. I thank Brian and Brant and all of you for creating this context which is so open and humble and in its way so promising.