Do you eat gebrochts?
What about dairy products – do you use them like regular? Is it your minhag to eat Kitniyos on Pesach? Do you peel all the vegetables, and stay away from the ones that cannot be peeled?
Do you allow all processed food products with a proper hechsher into your kitchen, or are you one of those who hardly drink a cup of water outside the home?
There are so many minhagim and chumros and practices regarding Pesach. The holy Jewish people is made up of so many families that meticulously maintain their traditions from past generations.
But there is one halachah, with which the Shulchan Aruch begins the laws of Pesach, even before it goes into chametz and matzah and the Seder night. It is not a chumrah and not a minhag. It is a clear ruling halachah incumbent on all of us: the mitzvah to give ma’os chittim to the poor.
The poor of Vaad Harabbanim are waiting for you to fulfill this halachah, so they will have food to eat on Pesach. So they will have matzos and wine and chicken and potatoes.
They are waiting for you; They are hungry and are counting on your kimcha d’pischa.
What does the word “Pesach” bring to mind?
A festive and exciting Seder night. Family members sitting around a laden, well-set table, dressed in their new Tom Tov clothes, thanking and praising Hashem for the miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim. And after that, a pleasant and tranquil chol hamo’ed with pastoral family togetherness. There is nothing like the chagim.
For the thousands of families of Vaad Harabbanim, Pesach is a nightmare that they don’t want to even think about. Crazy pressure that wraps their lungs with fear for months before.
If there is not enough food on ordinary weekdays, how can they even begin to get ready for Yom Tov? How will they buy matzos and grape juice and bleach and food for the days before Pesach, when they are all going around with hungry stomachs and can’t even put together a dollar or two for a bag of noodles to make supper? How can they get a new laundry basket to replace the broken one, and the electric water kettle that doesn’t work anymore, and shoes for the oldest child who outgrew the pair he is wearing long ago?
And who will clean the home of eight orphans who just yesterday got up from the shivah of their mother?
“We are all davening that Mameh should get better,” says the brother-in-law to the children.
They are returning together from the hospital. It is a long ride and the night is cold. The children snuggle inside their old, hand-me-down coats, put their frozen hands in their pockets.
“Mameh will get better soon!” says Daniel the ten-year-old. “We are davening for her in school, every day.”
The brother-in-law’s heart is full of compassion. He looks for words, choosing them carefully. “Sometimes Hashem answers our prayer differently” he tries. “Mameh has a dangerous disease, and they can’t treat it because her body is too weak.”
“We are dedicating all of our learning to her refuah!” insists Chizky the twelve-year-old. “Torah is the strongest cure in the world.”
They are not willing to hear about another possibility. It can’t be that Mameh will go, and they will be left orphans!
How can it be that eight sensitive yesomim will be left in a small, old apartment, with dilapidated furniture and broken doors, without a dollar to start putting themselves back together?
How can eight orphans remain in shocking poverty, among them a crushed chasan, whose father is an exalted individual and knows all the Torah, but knows nothing about money? During the days before she passed away, the chasan sat by her bed in the ICU unit, holding her thin hand and his sobs shaking all who heard them. Mameh, get better, please. Mameh, I want you do be at my wedding…
On Rosh Chodesh Adar the tragic funeral took place. The neighbors organized the house for shivah, shocked by the extreme poverty: empty closets, worn-out clothing, for years the children have been sleeping two in a bed…
How could Purim be celebrated at their home, right after they got up from a tear drenched shivah? And who will clean the broken apartment for Pesach, when every touch peels off another chip of Formica from the furniture, and pieces of plaster are falling on the floor?
What kind of a Pesach will they have without Mameh?
The older children are koshering the kitchen, Mameh’s kingdom. “Mameh loved Pesach so much!” says Sheiny and doesn’t manage to stop her tears. “Only she knew how to cook for Seder night in such a miserable kitchen, and still be happy…”
They can’t make it to Pesach without help! We will be the ones to bring them joy on the chag despite their terrible pain. We will fill up the table that Mameh will not be sitting at, with vegetables and chicken and grape juice for Arba Kosos. We will send a Kimcha d’Pis’cha envelope, and it will have enough money for eggs and for white shirts for the children, as well as a new broom, and a stick-on covering for the kitchen counter.
We will make Pesach for them, b’ezras Hashem.
Chagim intensify feelings. When it’s good, the chag is full of happiness. When it’s hard, the chag is painful and difficult.
From Shabbos to Shabbos it’s possible to get by with old clothing. The pants that don’t reach all the way down to the shoes, the worn-out and faded suit, the belt that has been missing for a long time… somehow or another, it can be ignored.
But on Yom Tov, when everyone comes to shul shiny and well-dressed, the dustiness of the hat becomes so pitiful, and the challenges that were faced all year, and hardly left air to breath, now choke the throat.
Vaad Harabbanim took care of the clothing problem, too. The gabbaim came up with a brilliant idea, they turned to the leading clothing companies in Israel and asked them to sell off their excess clothing at a subsidized price. They also rented a large hall, brought in staff to set up an impromptu store, which was impressively organized, and offers fine clothing at below cost-price.
The first sale of this type was held almost two decades ago, and since then, it has been held regularly every few months. It is open to the public at large without registration and without conditions. Whoever wants can come and buy respectable clothing in a self-respecting way, without being tagged as “needy,” without giving explanations.
The cost of living is high for everyone, not just for the very poor. Prices are going up and up all the time. Families that used to manage on their own are no longer able to make ends meet.
The sales of Vaad Harabbanim are a tremendous relief for thousands and thousands of families. Among all the shoppers are those who don’t pay, and no one knows except for the gabbaim who assist the family. This is how Avremi got into the sale, amazed at the many lines and styles that he didn’t even know about.
What troubles there are in the world, what troubles! Avremi is rifling through the new suits on the rack, and the screams of Eidy his disabled sister are echoing in his head.
He was born into this. Eidy suffers from an endless list of health problems, including emotional and mental problems. She hardly sees and hears, and this is after extremely costly treatments and operations.
He remembers himself escaping to the neighbors in terror when Eidy took giant sewing scissors and they couldn’t get them out of her hand. He remembers her overturning a pot of soup a minute after Shabbos, twisting and turning on the sidewalk when she didn’t feel like getting on the school bus, and when she ripped up his schoolbooks…
Today Eidy is twenty, and dealing with her is difficult and sometimesfeels impossible. The plumbing in the old apartment overflows again and again and there is no money to replace the plumbing. Mother is lying in bed with a slipped disk and is crying.
Avremi tries on a stylish suit, looks at himself in the mirror and his eyes tear. Suddenly he feels like someone cares about him, that he is important. He, too, will have a new and normal outfit for Seder night, b’Ezras Hashem!
Later, he informed his father and even his unfortunate father, who works fifteen hours a day, and is pursued at night by creditors, walked out with a very decent suit.
We will give them matzos, too, b’ezras Hashem. And a shopping cart at the supermarket full of what they need for the chag, and a plumber to fix the pipes.
You don’t understand what light and life your tzedakah brings into distressed homes, and we hope you never will truly understand it! It’s not just food. It’s oxygen! It’s the strength to go on another day, it’s the hope that tomorrow will be better.
“I tremble when I just think about Pesach…” Sarah is sitting in her sister’s kitchen and speaking in a quiet tone. Her children are eating treats in the living room together with the cousins while the two women are getting salads ready for the Shabbos meal.
“David must get up before Pesach…” Sarah cries. David her husband contracted a bad case of a pneumonia strain that was going around, and no medicine is helping him, he has been hooked up to an iron lung for a full month and they are talking about a lung transplant.
“On Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the boys will come back from beis midrash, and we need to clean and get ready for Pesach, and also to feed them… I can’t, Dinah! I don’t have the strength or the money…”
When yeshivos are on break, it is extremely demanding on the home! People spend thousands and thousands of dollars during this period. What will Sarah do? She is not able to work and her husband is ill. What will Esther and Talia do, identical orphan sisters who live alone at home? What will “regular” poor people do, healthy families with two parents, baruch Hashem, who finish a regular month with a minus in the bank? Where will they find money for Pesach?
The Shulchan Aruch instructs us to give Kimcha d’Pis’cha, in the first halachah of Pesach!
Before you start getting rid of chametz, before you go to bake or buy matzos – first make a donation to Vaad Harabbanim!
First make sure that you distributed digital vouchers to the thousands of avreichim supported by Vaad Harabbanim. That you purchased enough matzos for struggling families, that widows and orphans will have food products to put in the clean cabinets, and the children of sick parents, or siblings, will be dressed properly for Yom Tov!
We are Jews. And Jews are always responsible for one another. There’s no way we can sit like b’nei chorin when our brethren are counting how many bites of matzah they have. We don’t festively announce כל דצריך ייתי ויפסח unless we do something about it practically.
At Yetzias Mitzrayim we were transformed from being dispersed slaves to become one people, one person with one heart. איש אחד בלב אחד. Also for Pesach 5783 we will come together, one caring for another. When we make Pesach purchases for ourselves, we will add something for another Jew. So that all of us, without exception, will be b’nei chorin…