Dear Friends,

One only has to look outside to see some of the effects of the fires Nevada and California. Our city has been blanketed in a haze for several days now with no sign of relief. And for the people in the affected areas, the Carr fire alone has burned over 115,000 acres, destroyed 800 homes, and claimed at least six lives. The Perry fire north of Reno is nearly half that large itself. These are stunning reminders of the power of nature and the fragility of life. Our community mourns with the families who have lost members and offers prayers of support for those affected and involved in containing the blazes.

At times like these, we are humbled to remember that all of our human designs and capabilities are no match for nature’s fury. But there is still one limitless force that gives us hope: goodness. As people have been dispossessed of their land, driven from their homes, and afflicted with loss and pain, others have stepped up to help.

My favorite of these people is Gracie Lutz. This intrepid two-year-old can be seen on a YouTube video handing out burritos to weary firefighters. At two, it is unlikely that she will long remember the mitzvah she and her family performed. But if their generosity is any indication, Gracie will spend her life enacting good values, upholding virtue, and learning how to make the world a better place. (What more can we ask for any of our children?)

Last week we read from the Torah, “V’hayu had’varim ha-eileh asher anochi m’tzavcha hayom al l’vavecha. V’shinantam l’vanecha.” “And these words, which I command you on this day, shall be on your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your children.” That video of Gracie handing out all those burritos is what our Torah looks like in action. Although we will never tame nature or live without tragedy, we can live in a world where compassion and kindness abound. This is a lesson we could all use to hear, parents and children alike.

Rabbi Benjamin