Sign In Forgot Password

Kol HaChadoshot

What's news and 'nu' in the Beth David community

April 2018

Do you have space at your Seder table for one or two extra guests? Could you squeeze in one more person if there is a need? For almost all of us, the answers are yes; and if so, there is more that we can do to benefit others less fortunate than us.
     Most of the pre-Passover chatter in ours and most communities revolves around the new items that are Kosher for Passover and why green beans are still not allowed in Ashkenazi homes. One of the important traditions that have somehow gotten lost in the flurry of holiday preparation is the tradition of Maot ChitimMaot Chitim translates as money for grain and references the charity used to bring Passover joy to those unable and less able to afford Passover as it is commonly celebrated. A mishneh near the end of Talmud Pesachim (10.1) reminds all Jewish communities of the imperative to provide for the minimal Seder needs for all those who depend on charity for their survival. If welcoming strangers to our homes is a discomforting thought, at least we can be partners in the providing for their needs.
     I was a guest teacher a few weeks ago at a neighboring congregation. During the Q&A near the end of the session, the conversation transitioned to a discussion about what the developed world has learned about human suffering and what has yet to be fully incorporated into practice. Do we do enough for those who live in inter-generational cycles of poverty, hunger, and illiteracy? There are agencies, some governmental and some NGO, that are engaged; but are we engaged individually? We are proud of what others do in our names, but might there be something more that we ourselves can do? 
     I suggested that the boundaries, geographical as well as ideological, that provide us with protection and security often deliver also buffers of separation. We are distanced from the suffering of others because our boundaries lull our senses of awareness regarding the well-being of those who live beyond our margins. Sometimes the boundaries are national, sometimes they are neighborhoods, sometimes they are merely social.
     Matanot l'Evyonim is the charity of Purim as Maot Chitim is the charity of Passover. The season of our fall holidays places charity (tzedakah) on equal footing with repentance and prayer. Tikun Olam is a never-ending obligation as Torah admonishes every generation to "not stand idly by the blood" of brothers and sisters in their times of need. So now let us return to my opening question - do you have space at your Seder table for one or two extra guests? If the answer is yes, I ask Beth David members and friends to take the monetary equivalence of providing for the Seder hospitality of that guest or two and pledge that sum to a charity or humanitarian cause. If there is space at the table to squeeze in one more person, there should be resources available to extend "a strong hand and an outstretched arm" to those who will not be at any table.
     As God has done for us so does Heaven expect that we do for others.

Thu, April 19 2018 4 Iyyar 5778