I have been inundated with calls from individuals looking to raise money for families who have no basic necessities for Passover. Not just a health crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has also taken its toll on countless people financially. After hearing case after case of people in need, I decided to reprint a column that appeared a few years ago, discussing charity.
One of my favorite parts of the Passover holiday is the role that charity plays in it. Turn on the radio and you are bound to hear an appeal to donate to some organization that provides food packages for the needy. Walk around the streets of Jerusalem and you will see trucks unloading fruits, vegetables, chickens and meat for families who can’t afford the cost of the holiday.
Aside from the beautiful sense of community where those less fortunate are looked after, what also gives me satisfaction is the fact that those who are giving are individuals. It’s not the government that is running this tremendous amount of kindness; it’s the private sector.
While we always have an obligation to give, on Passover it gets ramped up. There is an ancient custom that 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.
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. 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 by wine and meat for the entire Holiday.”
How can we have more money so that we can give more charity? To readers of this column the answer is obvious. It centers on living with both financial discipline and within your means. At the end of the laws of holidays, the Biur Halacha commentary says that since we don’t know how much money we are allocated at the beginning of the year, it is incumbent on each individual to live within their means in order not to run out of money. We have a responsibility to not be frivolous with our money since it comes to us by heavenly decree.
START A BUDGET with two line items that get funded first. First is your charity and next is long-term savings. Try to put 10% of your take-home income in each. I once counseled a family that set a goal of giving NIS 200 more each month to charity. At first they thought it would be an impossible task, but after examining their spending and then prioritizing purchases by importance, they were able to easily find the 200 shekels.
I know you are thinking that you are maxed out and have no money for anything, let alone finding more money for charity. Believe me, you can do it just like the family that I mentioned above was able to accomplish their goal. Start examining spending decisions and assess if you really need the product or whether you can do without. You don’t need to buy everything. Every spending decision can have a crucial impact on savings. Think about it this way: You can probably do without another new pair of shoes or shirt. There are a lot of families 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.
While we tend to focus on our charity before Passover and Rosh Hashanah, I would like to relay what one fruit and vegetable store owner once told me. We were talking about providing vegetable packages for the poor in the neighborhood. He said, “Everyone seems to remember the poor around the holidays, but there are another 50 weeks a year when they have little or no food, and they are forgotten.”
Wishing everyone a chag kasher v’sameach – a kosher, happy holiday!
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.
Aaron Katsman is author of the book Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing (McGraw-Hill), a licensed financial professional in the US and Israel, and a member of FINRA, SIPC, MSRB and FSI. For more information, call (02) 624-0995, visit aaronkatsman.com or email [email protected]