“If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in darkness, and thy gloom be as the noon-day.” Isaiah 58:10 (The Israel Bible™)
With Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, quickly approaching on October 3, people all over the world take an accounting of last year’s successes, failures and goals and create a plan of action for this year. For Israel’s oldest charity, Colel Chabad, their accounting is astounding.
Plans are well on their way to provide nearly $4 million dollars worth of assistance during the Hebrew month of Tishrei alone. This year, Tishrei coincides with October, the time of the High Holidays.
“When one contemplates how we celebrate Rosh Hashanah, one is struck by the dichotomy of God’s commands of how to celebrate this holy day of judgement,” noted Rabbi Shmuel Lipsker, administrator for Colel Chabad, to Breaking Israel News.
“On the one hand, it is a day of awe and prayer as we are receiving our Godly judgment for the year. On the other hand, we are crowning God as our only true King and, therefore, we greet this day with joy, festive meals, fresh clothing and confidence that the merciful One will grant us a sweet and bountiful New Year.”
Though every week, observant Jews serve special foods and treats in honor of Shabbat, for the holidays, it is customary to go far beyond the standard Shabbat meal. But for the 1.7 million citizens living below the poverty line in Israel, even simple weekday fare is beyond their reach.
“Colel Chabad is presently packing for the holidays 20,500 food packages for needy families, Holocaust survivors, lone soldiers and hungry individuals,” shared Rabbi Lipsker. “Our National Food Security Program is growing exponentially.”
Colel Chabad works in partnership with some 60 cities and municipalities to pack the food crates which include dry foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, cleaning supplies and food shopping vouchers to buy chicken.
Food basket recipients are selected by municipality social workers who have a clear understanding of the extent to which people are in need. Colel Chabad sends a representative to each locality, from the most northern to the most southern Israeli cities, to ensure that packing and distribution is done in an orderly and respectful manner. All distribution points are manned by local volunteers.
In addition to the prepared food baskets, Colel Chabad is giving out $1 million dollars worth of pre-paid food shopping cards and clothing store vouchers. “Everyone should feel hopeful at the start of a New Year,” smiled Rabbi Lipsker. “Fresh food and clothing goes a long way to giving people dignity and joy.”
For those alone or unable to prepare their own meals, Colel Chabad daily provides thousands of hot, nourishing meals, including during the holidays. Its meals-on-wheels service delivers 1,500 hot meals every day to homebound seniors and disabled people. This comes to a whopping 120,000 hot meals served throughout the month of Tishrei.
Rabbi Lipsker pointed out to Breaking Israel News that the twelfth century Rabbi Moses Maimonides, known as the Rambam, the foremost authority on Jewish law, writes that when one eats and drinks [on the holidays] “he is obligated to feed the foreigner, orphan and widow, together with other indigent paupers . . . One who locks the doors of his courtyard, however, and eats and drinks together with his children and wife, and does not feed and give drink to the poor and embittered—this is not the joy of a mitzvah [Biblical commandment], but the joy of his stomach.”
“We, at Colel Chabad, are doing all that we can to take care of those who need it most. May everyone have a sweet New Year,” said Rabbi Lipsker.