As you well know, we are in the midst of a financial crisis unprecedented during our lifetimes. As a community we must take stock of the circumstances and react to the new realities in a responsible way. The phenomenon of so many of our friends and neighbors experiencing hardship deserves our attention and consideration.
Philosophically, it is perhaps the time to remember what we all know to be true. Our material possessions are a gift to us from God who divides "the pie" as He sees fit. Those of us who are the beneficiaries of His generosity must use our share to care for our families and to help others less fortunate.
A good time to put this lesson into practice is Purim. The Mitzvah of matanot la’evyonim "gifts to the poor" should be given special emphasis. We should fulfill mishloach manot "presents of food" in the simplest way, two food items (one cooked or baked and a beverage) to one friend. In addition participation in our Sisterhood Mishloach Manot project gives you the opportunity to let your friends and family know that you thought of them.
Instead of spending large sums of money on fancy mishloach manot packages, consider what you have budgeted to be given to Matanot Le’Evyonim, Maot Chittim, and local charities which are helping the poor. We would strongly recommend Project Eliezer which is assisting people searching for jobs, people with mortgage and credit card debt, people in foreclosure, and with advice as to how to create and live within a realistic austerity budget. Project Eliezer has cards available which can be sent or delivered to friends in lieu of Mishloach Manot.
This Purim all of us in the community have the opportunity to fulfill all of the mitzvos of the day with priority given to pressing local needs. "Aniyai ircha ve’aniyai ir acheret, aniyai ircha kodmin" is the Talmudic equivalent of "charity must begin a home." If we reflect seriously on sharing what God has bequeathed us in the most productive and altruistic way, then we could spread the joy of Purim to our friends and neighbors who are going through hard times.
Rabbi Hershel Billet Rabbi Kalman Topp Rabbi Aaron Glatt
Zev writes: How does this charity actually do anything? They "assist" people looking for jobs, provide "advice" over how to live within budget . . . .These are things your uncle can do, you do not need organizations for that. And just because these types of organizations exist for inner-city single moms, it does not mean the Jewish community needs the same thing.
I’d rather give charity to a plain old fashioned tzedakah. The type that gives people down on their luck a box of food or a cash check. That’s real tzedaka. Not giving counselling sessions.