“Goodness is about character - integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.” - Dennis Prager
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post a few years ago, Rabbi Yitzchak David Grossman, Israel Prize laureate and founder and director of the Migdal Ohr network of educational institutes, said: “The narrative in the Passover Haggadah is instructive, especially in the way it begins, which is not, as we might have thought, with the events of the Exodus but in describing the matzah and inviting everyone to eat of it. This story of the Exodus and of becoming a people is only interesting and is only relevant if we are all taking care of each other, not just ourselves but the whole Jewish people.”
Especially this year, with COVID-19 front and center, acts of kindness and charity have helped countless people get ready for the holiday, while under lockdown. In a “normal” year, we hear appeals on the radio and special television fundraisers, raising money for organizations that provide food to the needy. Walk around the streets of Jerusalem and you will see trucks unloading fruits, vegetables, chickens and meat for families that can’t afford the cost of the holiday.
While much of that took place this year as well, nothing compares to the acts of kindness created in local communities throughout the country. In my neighborhood, multiple WhatsApp groups were active, looking for volunteers to pick up and deliver medicine for the homebound, or prepare meals for those unable to make them for themselves, just to name a few tasks.
It got to the point where if you were away from your phone for a couple of hours, there would be 30 or 40 messages asking for help and double that amount for people wanting to help and offering their services. The togetherness and real community spirit has been a beautiful thing to experience.
What makes this so ironic is that for all of the togetherness, we are actually all alone, not able to congregate. I heard someone talk about the unusual Seder night that we just celebrated and said that due to the fact that no one was allowed to have guests, there were more Seders celebrated than at any time in Jewish history.
I find it amusing that while it’s the government policies that have brought us to this situation, the government is slow and clumsy in providing solutions. The kindness mentioned above, which has been incredibly effective in solutions for real people, is the brainchild of private citizens. The government is nowhere to be seen.
In Jewish law, we always have an obligation to give, but for Passover it gets ramped up. There is an ancient custom which dates back to the time of the Jerusalem Talmud of kimcha d'pischa (flour for Passover). This refers to giving charity before Passover to your city's poor so they will be able to afford all their Passover needs.
As I have written previously, to illustrate the need to give charity before the holiday there is a famous story about Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik of Brisk. A woman approached him with a strange question. She wanted to know if one could use milk instead of wine for the four cups of the Seder. She explained that she could not afford wine. He answered her by giving her a large amount of money. Asked the Rabbi's wife, "I understand you gave her money because she can't afford the wine, but why so much?"
Answered the Rabbi, "If she wants to drink milk at the Seder, it is obvious she has no meat for Passover (as there is a prohibition to eat meat and milk at the same meal). So I gave her enough to buy wine and meat for the entire holiday."
With so many struggling financially, how can we make sure that we can continue giving? Today more than ever, it centers on living with financial discipline. Start a budget, where you have two line items that get funded first. First is your charity and next is long-term savings.
I know you are thinking that you are maxed out and have no money for anything. You can do it. Start examining spending decisions and think if you really need the product. You don’t need to buy everything.
Think about it this way: You can probably do without another new pair of shoes or going out to dinner. There are a lot of families that you could give that money to instead, and it would allow them to be able to put food on the table for a week.
In addition the sooner you start saving and investing the sooner that you will be able to accumulate a nice amount of money and then you will be able to increase your giving as well.
Have a great Passover!
The information contained in this article reflects the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. or its affiliates.
The writer is author of Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing (McGraw-Hill), and a licensed financial professional in the US and Israel. Securities are offered through Portfolio Resources Group, Inc. (prginc.net). Member FINRA, SIPC, MSRB, FSI. Call 02-624-0995 or visit aaronkatsman.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.