Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan is a special time, an eis ratzon to daven for children.
On Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the Gedolei Hador gather at the tomb of the Shelah Hakadosh, where they daven for us to have children and for all our children’s physical and spiritual needs to be met.
On Erev Shavu’os, the emissaries go to the Beis Hashunamis to daven for the childless, and they continue to daven there each day for forty days straight.
The tzedakah we give protects our children – as well as the children of Vaad Harabbanim.
Our children benefit from the Tefilah of the Tzadikei Hador, and the children of Vaad Harabbanim breathe easier and gain strength to face the challenges in their lives.
The room is dark. A little light seeps in from the hall. Itzik is lying in bed, his younger brothers are sleeping and his ears pick up the conversation in the living room.
“Maybe it comes out cheaper if we bake ourselves,” Ima says.
“Do we really need to give mishloach manos to this whole list?” Abba sounds defeated.
“Yes… the neighbors will send, and I will be very embarrassed not to send back. In the classes and preschool groups they collect for a joint mishloach manos, and that will be an additional cost. Oh, I almost forgot – costumes!”
Right. They are collecting $5 from each child in Yehudah’s class, and he is the only one who didn’t pay yet. Today, Yehudah “forgets” to bring the money yet again, and they are losing patience with him.
Yehudah can’t bring himself to ask Abba for the five dollars. Not when the bathroom is still leaking, and Ima says it is expensive to fix, so they will wait a little longer. And a little longer. Until when?
“I don’t need a costume,” he says to Ima the next afternoon, bravely biting his lips.
Ima looks at him with surprise. “Why?”
“Because not everyone my age wears costumes,” Itzik says.
Ima tries to hide it, but Itzik hears the sigh of relief very well. “Okay,” she smiles and asks him to go to an aunt who lives nearby to pick up a dress that will fit Gitty.
Gitty cries when she sees the dress. “It’s not white!” she is upset. “I wanted to be a kallah, with a headpiece and a bouquet…”
“You will dress up as Esther Hamalka,” Ima tries. “Look what a nice dress!”
“It’s not!” The girl can’t be convinced, and Itzik secretly agrees with her. It’s a faded dress, the stars on it are bent out of shape and half falling off… but so what? He, too, gave up on the costume he wanted! They don’t have money!
“Gitty,” he bends toward the crying six-year-old girl. “Daven that by next Purim, we will be very rich, and Ima will buy you the fanciest dress in the store! Just this year, you will wear this dress, okay?”
Ima looks at him in shock. “Itzik?”
“If Abba doesn’t have work, then we are poor,” he says straight.
Ima turns red. She is searching for words, tries to mumble something, and then simply takes her oldest son with the worries weighing down on his shoulders, and hugs him while she is shaking from head to toe.
At that moment someone knocks on the door.
A man asks for one of the parents and Ima goes to the door. She receives a sealed envelope that says “Vaad Harabbanim” on it, and suddenly starts to cry and rushes to the bedroom.
“It says something sad?” Nechami the six-year-old girl is frightened.
“No,” Itzik answers. There are tears in his eyes, too. “It’s something happy, I think.”
It was very happy.
The very next day, a plumber was bending down in front of the leaky toilet, and the familiar puddle on the floor disappeared. Ima turned on the Purim CD, Abba made a big order at the supermarket and bought also treats and chocolates – “For mishloach manos for your friends,” he explained, and the children danced with joy.
Suddenly their home was full of happiness! It was a truly joyous Purim, and the children even decorated their home.
Purim was a holiday for them, too. Ima received and gave mishloach manos with ease, the children were satisfied with their costumes, and Abba, who drank a little, convinced everyone who was willing to listen (as well as those who weren’t) to donate to Vaad Harabbanim…
Ayalah is the oldest, she has nine younger brothers, and she still had a normal home on Purim. But two days later the results came back for little Channy’s lab tests, and she was hospitalized immediately. Abba and Ima take shifts caring for her at the hospital. Ima misses entire days of work, and no one even talks about cleaning for Pesach.
Alizah the neighbor comes again with a big pot of soup. “I brought you supper,” she says. She walks into the kitchen naturally, clears the table of used disposable plates and wipes it with a wet cloth.
Ayalah feels uncomfortable and hurries to take out bowls and spoons. “I will serve the meal today. It’s okay, Alizah. Thanks so much!”
“How is Channy doing?” the neighbor asks.
“They are trying a new treatment…” Ayalah thinks of the insane price they are charging for this innovative treatment. “The truth is that Ima hardly has time to talk, so I don’t really know.”
“Were you able to get a cleaning lady for Pesach?”
“A cleaning lady?” She is shocked by the idea. “No… what are you talking about? We will manage on our own.”
The little ones are already coming into the kitchen and sitting down, and Ayalah serves the soup. A bowl spills, Mendy screams that he doesn’t like the food, the baby tries to eat with his hands and smears it all over himself.
Abba walks into the kitchen with a tired expression on his face. “Abba!” Ayalah sits down on the couch and lets out a sigh of despair. “Look at this crazy mess. I am not managing.”
Abba is very preoccupied and doesn’t even notice what is going on in the home. “Did Rabinovitz knock?” he asks.
“He said he has a check to lend me…” he shares with his oldest daughter. “I owe those 10,000 today. Besides that, he is organizing the matzah-baking chaburah.”
Ayalah wrinkles her eyebrows. Matzos? They don’t have a single spot in the house clean from chametz. On the contrary, the whole place is dirty and upside down like it never was.
“I guess we will get our regular matzos only for Seder night and Shevi’i Shel Pesach,” Abba continues. “The children can make do with ordinary matzah from the store, and we don’t need to wash for any meals during Chol Hamoed.”
Ayalah can’t bear the sadness in his voice. Abba is very makpid every year to buy hand-baked chaburah matzos… she hears the children screaming in the kitchen and runs in to see what happened. The pandemonium she finds there does not make her forget Abba’s pain.
The baby is crying, and Ayalah joins in with him. Everything seeps out in her tears: her concern over sick Channy, her compassion for Abba and herself and her brothers. Abba is under terrible pressure, he speaks on the phone for long hours with everyone possible, and keeps repeating, “Everything is so expensive, so expensive…”
Their door finally got a knock from the Vaad Harabbanim angel. Ima had just come back from spending two days straight in the hospital. The envelope made her weary face shine.
Ima held the envelope in her hand, an envelope that was a hug from Am Yisrael. An envelope that says: You are not alone! We are with you, we support you, we stand behind you!
“Channy will get better, b’ezras Hashem.” Ima gives them a hug, caresses the longing children. “We will get back to normal. But in the meantime – in the meantime we must be strong and remember that Hashem is protecting us even now. And He has reliable shelichim to send help…”
How many children are crying out for our support? It is hard to count. Children of preschool age who feel the tension quite clearly and are frightened by it. Boys and girls of school age, who understand what is not said, and try on their own to cut expenses. A child eats less bread, maybe because that way, money will be left to buy vitamins that Ima needs so badly. A girl hides the holes in her socks and doesn’t tell how her friends make fun of her…
Nowadays, poor people look more-or-less ordinary from the outside, and they might even live in an apartment that still looks okay. Their children sit next to the others in school, wearing the same school uniform, and no one knows what is happening behind the doors of their home.
Davidi drags his suitcase up the stairway, and the broken wheels are noisy. He knocks lightly on the door and comes in.
Only his brother Eliyahu is there. He looks up from the book he is reading and greets Davidi. “Welcome back from Beis Midrash!” Eliyahu smiles to his brother. “What do you want to drink? Coffee?”
Davidi follows him to the kitchen, and, as if this is the first time he came home since Ima passed away, he shrinks in pain. It screams out that Ima is not here… the gas range is strewn with debris from yesterday’s supper, the sinks are full, the counter is dirty and sticky. Even the potted plants that Ima took such good care of have wilted…
“Coffee?” Eliyahu asks him again.
Davidi nods. Yes, he would be happy to get a hot drink.
Eliyahu boils the water, fishes a cup out of the sink and rinses it. A spoonful of coffee, two of sugar.
Davidi opens the fridge to take out milk – and freezes in shock: there are a few rotten veggies lying in the drawer, one tub of white cheese, and a pot with very old leftovers. There is no milk at all. This is not Ima’s clean, orderly fridge!
“No one shops at the grocery store?” he asks, shaken up. “You don’t eat anymore? I don’t understand!”
“You have it good at your yeshivah…” Eliyahu says bitterly. “What do you think, money grows on trees? The grocery store won’t give us credit anymore. Tomorrow a carton from the chesed organization is supposed to come, and then there will be food for Shabbos.”
“And today we go hungry?”
“There are things more important than food,” Eliyahu explains to him like one speaks to a child. “Toilet paper, for instance. Or a school uniform. Michal’s teacher punished her because it’s been two weeks since her school blouse tore, and she didn’t get a new one yet. Understand?”
And he had planned to ask Abba for another shirt for Shabbos…
People face troubles that we don’t even know, baruch Hashem. Jews who are barely holding on to the frayed edge of survival. It could be because of a sickness or a tragedy, or maybe just severe financial collapse.
Thousands of Jews are raising their hungry eyes to you. Children longing for a relaxed, regular life, for a sandwich in their schoolbag and some attention from Ima. Some of them are orphans, some of them are facing a serious health issue of their own or of a family member. Then there are children whose father went out of business or whose mother had an emotional collapse. These are children who matured fast, too fast, and your donation will give them more strength to grow.
You might be thinking right now: but how can my ten dollars help?
True. Your ten dollars can’t help very much. But your ten joins with someone else’s ten, and with the fifty of the person behind you. A neighbor gives twenty, and another gives a hundred… when tens of thousands of Jews from all over the world make the effort to give something – that’s a lot, a real lot!
Unity is the strength of the Jewish people, and not just vis a vis the world, but also within ourselves. When we all give something to feed thousands of poor Jews, it adds up to millions!