I will never hear Psalm 24 the same way again:
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?/Who may stand in God’s holy place?/One with clean hands and a pure heart…
The “clean hands” are, of course a reference to honesty and integrity. The Psalm goes on, “who has not taken a false oath…nor sworn deceitfully.” And yet, why not connect the Psalmist’s vision of clean hands to…clean hands?
At our Mitzvah Day kickoff ceremony on Sunday morning, October 28, Religious School students presented a large basket of bandages, anti-bacterial ointment, and hand sanitizer to TMS member Deborah Benedict. Deb directs La Clinica Guadalupana, a health clinic for low-income residents of the far eastern region of El Paso County. In accepting the gift, Deb pointed out that the hand sanitizer is particularly useful at this time of year since it helps people without running water in their homes keep germs at bay.
“People without running water in their homes.” How many of us give sufficient thought to the fact that, today in El Paso County, there are still several thousand people living without access to running water, natural gas, electricity, or sewer lines. Many of them were promised these services years, even decades ago, when they purchased land in a colonia in one of the unincorporated areas of the county. The promise went unfulfilled. Clean hands, indeed!
There are at least three ways that we can act on our neighbors’ behalf. Each is a different sort of “justice work”: different in intensity, different in effort, different in effect. All are valuable.
- The first is, through and through, an act of g’milut chasadim (“lovingkindness”). Through our ongoing relationship with La Clinica Guadalupana, we can see to it that families living in poverty have access to some of the things we take for granted, including bandages, anti-bacterial ointment, and hand sanitizer. These, as well as warm clothing for the winter, are always needed, and will continue to be collected in Temple’s “Bima Barrels” in the Chapel.
- We can learn about Proposition 16, which will provide state money to economically distressed areas of Texas for the purpose of extending water service.I would never use this space to tell you how to vote, but I will remind you that it is a mitzvah to take part in civic society through the ballot box, and I am not shy about sharing the fact that I believe strongly in the goals of this Proposition. El Paso is chronically underserved by our fellow citizens to the East, and this is a chance to pass an initiative that will bring a good deal of benefit to El Paso County. If gifts to Clinica Guadalupana are “band-aids” on the problem (quite literally!), millions of dollars dedicated to bringing water service to the colonias begins to get to the heart of the issue.
- Finally, we can take action through Border Interfaith. We can work with other congregations and communities to see that justice is done in our county, and the shame of homes without access to such basic services is finally eradicated. By forging relationships with people who live in the colonias and standing with them as they seek to better their situations, we do the best sort of tzedakah: helping people attain self-sufficiency.
We cannot ascend the mountain of the Lord without clean hands. So let our passion for justice, and our efforts on its behalf be the “hand sanitizer” that makes us worthy to stand in the presence of holiness.