It is a fundamental Jewish belief that in the era of the Messiah, the world will be transformed into a state of perfection. As stated by Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (Rambam, Maimonides – 12th century, Egypt): “At that time, there will be no hunger or war, no jealousy or rivalry” (Mishneh Torah, Law of Kings 12:5).
On “World Food Day” (October 16, 2012), a world without hunger indeed seems utopian. The question facing modern leaders, scientists and economists in this age of potential food shortages (and, indeed, severe hunger in some countries) is how to achieve this much-desired goal. Environmentalists might suggest planting fields of more efficient crops. Malthusians might suggest population control. A rabbi might suggest focussing more on mitzvot and prayer.
The solution suggested by the rabbi may seem to lack concrete implications, but a closer look proves the rationale behind the solution. Doing a mitzvah is more than just doing a good deed. The mitzvot of the Torah include actions such as leaving the corner of the field to be harvested by the poor (or in the era of global economics, providing for those who lack agricultural options). Other appropriate mitzvot include Shmittah (leaving the fields fallow every seven years to maintain the soil’s agricultural health), and Baal Tashchit (not wasting) – not to mention the well-known mitzvah of tzedakah, charity.
What of prayer? In addition to prayer being the metaphysical supplication for Divine intervention, Jewish prayer (in Hebrew: L’hitpallel) is expected to be introspective. One may thus expect that a person praying for assistance with global hunger issues will also reflect on what small acts he/she might perform in order to help find a solution to the problem.
Joining in prayers and performing mitzvot as a means of addressing the global issue of hunger, does not, of course, negate the appropriateness of participating in programs, organizations and movements that seek additional solutions. It is, however, an important tool accessible to all people.
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