Shabbat Candlelighting 8:48 p.m.                                             Friday, July 22, 2011/20 Tammuz 5771

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Drought and Famine in Africa Affects Millions
Although aid agencies have been issuing warnings for months, the enormous scale of the drought and growing famine in Africa has only burst into international consciousness in the past two weeks. It is now daily front page news, and front and centre in the UN and other international arenas. Thinking back 20 years, when such events seemed like an almost annual occurrence, many question why such things still happen. As yesterday’s Globe and Mail coverage reported, the sad fact is that countries that are beset by political instability and strife are most at risk for humanitarian disasters on the scale we are now seeing. Much of Africa has, in fact, made great strides and many countries that used to regularly be at risk are in much better shape than 20 years ago. Countries such as Sudan and Somalia, where conflict has left many of their regions basically ungoverned, lack the political and economic resources to address the basic needs of their people.

The Jewish world is responding to this humanitarian crisis, and if you are interested in doing so through Federation the opportunity is now available. The funds we raise, together with other Jewish Federations across Canada, will be pooled and allocated to IsraAid. IsraAid is a coordinating body of Israeli and Jewish non-governmental organizations and other interested parties based in Israel that are active in development and relief work, and concerned about global issues. Its members believe in providing humanitarian aid worldwide to people in need, regardless of religion, race, gender, nationality, age and disabilities.

Our funds will be supporting IsraAid’s efforts based in Kenya, along the border with Somalia. Political conditions in Somalia, unfortunately, make it extremely difficult for aid agencies to operate within the country. However, from its base of operations in Kenya, aid resources will be applied to the needs of famine victims in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

In addition to whatever individual donations we receive, Federation’s board will be considering a grant from our Israel and Overseas Emergency Reserve Fund at our upcoming board meeting. Click here to make a donation or call our office at 604.257.5100.

Parashat Matot
Most of this week’s parasha deals with the Israelites conquest of the Midianites and the disposition of spoils from the conquest. However, the beginning of the parasha deals with vows. And while most of that section deals with the vows of women, one verse, Numbers 30:3, states: “If a man makes a vow to God or takes an oath imposing an obligation on himself, he shall not break his pledge; he must carry out all that has crossed his lips.”

Spoiler alert: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Having seen the final chapter of the epic Harry Potter films this week, I was looking for a connection, and this verse leaped off the page. One of the most interesting subplots of the whole series relates to the character of Severus Snape, played by Alan Rickman, who takes the portrayal of a cold and stern force of evil to brilliant heights. But, what if all is not as it seems, if the twists and turns of his behavior through the whole of the epic story, are actually a reflection of his attempt to fulfill the various vows he’s made. Snape’s loyalty is in question throughout the whole narrative, but in the end we see he’s been consistently loyal, if he is viewed through in the context of his oaths and promises.

Now, given the context of the Harry Potter story, I grant that religious principle stemming from biblical text is not the source of Snape’s surprising convictions. But, it is a great example in contemporary literature of the power of the spoken oath, and the incredible lengths people can go if willing to be held accountable for the promises they’ve made.

Shabbat Shalom!

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