Drawing Close Those Cast Out: Rosh Hashanah #TorahForTheResistance

Draw Close Those Cast Out
A Kavanah for Rosh Hashanah 5779 / 2018 Day 1 Torah reading
Rabbi Adina Allen
Berkeley Community High Holy Day Services, JCC East Bay

In the Torah reading for the first day of Rosh Hashanah Aliyah Sarah demands, “Cast out that slave-woman and her son, for the son of that slave shall not share inheritance with my son.” Hagar and her young son are cast out to the wilderness with no more than a small bit of water and bread. Forsaken in the barren desert, she and her child nearly die under the blazing desert sun.

Seen as a threat to those in power, no longer of use, without resources for recourse or self-protection, they are left to languish as refugees in no-man’s land.

This story rings all too familiar. Our hearts break this year for the ways in which we have cast out those – because of skin color, socioeconomic status, religion, sexuality – we see as different. Erecting barriers rather than build bridges, we have left those like Hagar and Ishmael – most vulnerable and possessing the least power – to struggle for survival in our own country’s barren deserts: in our prisons, on our borders, within our city’s homeless encampments.

Hagar, having run out of water, realizing she and her son will likely not survive, cries tears of despair and cries out in anguish (Gen 21:16). This year may we allow ourselves to hear the cries of Hagar and Ishmael all around us.

We know that the task is big, the suffering is great, and the time is short, yet we also know that big change starts with small actions and each of us has a role to play: volunteering, marching, accompanying, advocating, supporting, donating; opening our homes, opening our hearts. As we are moved to action, may we find strength where we didn’t know we had it; time where we thought there was none; resources where we thought there was little; community where we thought we were alone; and hope where we once felt despair.

This year, may we draw close those who have been cast out so that Hagar’s cries will not have been in vain.


Jeff Kasowitz