The Torah calls us a mamlechet kohanim and an am segulah (Shemtov 19:4-6), a nation of priests and a chosen nation. What this means is that just like the kohanim had a responsibility to serve the Jewish people by teaching us the Torah and helping us worship Hashem, so too we Jews have a responsibility to teach the message of the Torah to the entire world.
We Jewish people must carry a message of the Torah. This message has meaning only if it is a message that attempts to impact the entire world for good. If the message is just about our own tribe, then it is too limiting and we are losing our charge as a mamlekhet kohanim. Mamlechet kohanim means we need to be the priests to the world; we serve G-d by serving the world.
In this context, I want to invite families and individuals within our community to explore with me the idea of each of us adopting a child—not an infant, but a child.
On my recent trip to Israel, I met with a couple from Jerusalem who have adopted two children– Rabbi Susan Silverman and her husband, Yossi. It is very hard to adopt an infant, but unfortunately not enough people want to adopt older children. There is a great shortage of willing families, and there is a great need for older children to be adopted both domestically and internationally.
There are 400,000 children in the US foster care system. About a quarter are available for adoption. There are 8-12 million children in institutions for orphans worldwide.
What would it look like if 15 families in our community would explore the idea of adopting a child?
G-d has blessed our community in so many ways. We have the most amazing people in the world here. We have so many resources. We have model parents and families. We can use our resources and affect the world one child at a time.
Rabbi Silverman created an organization called Second Nurture. She works to find communities where there are multiple families willing to adopt at the same time. In this way, the adopted children and the families are able to support each other.
She will be coming to meet with me at Ohev Sholom - The National Synagogue on March 16. If you are at all interested in joining me on this path, then I encourage you to join me for that meeting. I also want to be clear that this will not happen overnight. I view this as a one to two year preparatory effort leading up to the actual adoption and it is by no means an easy process. In addition, there are various halachic (legal) questions regarding adoption and one should consult with their trusted rabbinic adviser throughout the entire process.
I recently recounted to a friend that Rabbi Silverman told me that some of these children in orphanages end up being sold as slaves. I was so distressed about what I’d heard that I forgot my seven-year-old daughter was standing next to me as I spoke. I felt her tug on my arm.
“Abba, tell mommy not to give away my bed. We need to save it for one of these girls,” she said.
It is our own children who can remind us that sometimes we don’t need to overthink things. We should just do what is right.
For more information on Second Nurture, visit http://communityadoption.org/.
Shmuel Herzfeld is the rabbi of Ohev Sholom - the National Synagogue in Washington, D.C.