Parashat Eikev

Two Minutes of Torah with Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky

“When you have eaten your fill, give thanks to the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.” 

—Deuteronomy 8:10

This week’s Torah portion, Eikev, emphasizes that having enough food to eat should not be taken for granted. The Israelites are commanded, once they had enough to eat, to thank God for the food. This verse has become part of the prayers said after eating, known as “Birkat HaMazon.” In giving thanks after eating, we acknowledgenot only that we had food, but that we had enough food to be satiated. This is an important distinction, as there is a difference between having food to eat and having enough food to properly fuel your body. Today, we know this as food security and food insecurity. These phrases have taken on a larger meaning for many people since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutting down of many businesses, organizations, and communal spaces.

Food insecurity occurs when a person or a family does not have reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food. It is different from hunger – an individual condition that may result from food insecurity. As the economy continues to be impacted by COVID-19, the food insecurity rate in our country has skyrocketed. Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, estimates that more than 54 million people in the U.S., including 18 million children, may experience food insecurity because of COVID-19. In 2018 Maryland, Virginia, and DC had food insecurity rates of 11%, 9.9%, and 11.6%, respectively. Recent projections for 2020 show that food insecurity rates may reach 16.2% in Maryland, 15.1% in Virginia, and 16.9% in DC. More people in our communities will experience challenges in providing enough food for their families. It will be harder and harder to say, “we ate our fill and we are satisfied.”

Yet, there are blessings to be found in this situation. Faith groups all over Greater Washington have made tremendous efforts to provide meals and groceries to people in need or at risk for food insecurity. Synagogues, churches, mosques, and temples have teams of people who cook, serve, and distribute food to people in the community. Some efforts focus on providing kosher or hallal food, others focus on immigrant communities that may fear getting help due to immigration status. The Jewish community has resources for helping those experiencing challenges, as well as opportunities to mobilize against hunger. Visit JConnections, Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s platform for connecting those in our region who need help with those who want to help, to learn about programs in the community. JCRC will be sharing more information about food drive and food insecurity efforts throughout the region in the coming weeks, as we move toward Hunger Action Month in September. Together, we can help ensure that no one is hungry, no one struggles to have enough to eat, and everyone can feel secure in knowing they have access to food.