Anyone who has spent time with me in a meeting (specifically a meeting during the colder months) knows that I am almost always freezing. For about nine months a year, I keep a space heater on in my office, and ten months a year I use one in my bedroom. I simply can’t get warm enough. This also means I always have a sweater or sweatshirt on me or with me, and sometimes even a blanket at the ready in case a meeting space is too cold for my comfort. Since I’m usually prepared with these items, I also often end up lending them out when needed. Of course, occasionally I forget to gather them back, which means sometimes I’m cold, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
The ability for me to find warmth, however, is a huge blessing, and it makes me aware of how many people do not have that luxury. It’s a reminder of how much there is to do to support those who need warmth and shelter, especially in these cold and wet months in Portland.
This week in the Torah we read Parshat Mishpatim, the middle section of text in Sefer Shemot, the Book of Exodus. The Israelites are on their way out of Egypt to Israel. They have begun to set up their own system of laws and rules, beginning last week with the Ten Commandments. This week, Mishpatim focuses on interpersonal laws with regard to business. The main theme of this section of text is that we have the obligation to treat each other in business and personal relationships as complete, equal human beings.
In these new laws, we learn, “If you take your neighbor’s garment in pledge, you must return it to them before the sun sets; it is his only clothing.” The notion that someone should have what they need by sunset, the time in which we are most vulnerable, is, according to the Torah, the essence of humanity. Sharing warmth and protection, especially during this time of year, is more than a nice gesture; it’s a commandment.
If you’re cleaning out your home of items you no longer use, consider donating them instead of tossing them. KGW offers a non-exhaustive list of organizations that are taking donations.