“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, and let there be food in My House, and thus put Me to the test—said the Lord of Hosts. I will surely open the floodgates of the sky for you and pour down blessings on you”.
— - Malachi 3:10
Passover preparations will be different this year for many in our community. Jews are planning seder meals that will no doubt be more intimate than in past years. Most people are shopping for food, which, during a pandemic, is probably the most difficult task. Stores may not have the same amount of food, delivery times may not be available, and shopping for a typical week of groceries is already a monumental task. Now add the stringencies of Passover. Add in recent unemployment due to closures and furloughs. Add in loss of income because a job was in the service industry. Add in quarantines, and health care workers who endure the daily risk of being exposed to the virus.
This Shabbat is known as “Shabbat HaGadol” or “The Great Sabbath,” marking the last Shabbat before Passover. We chanta special haftarah, reading from the Prophets, which mentions the concept of tithing and ensuring food is available for others. There is a practice of ma’ot chittim, literally translated as “wheat funds,” which refers to the obligation for Jews to donate funds before Passover to help those in our community who need financial assistance in purchasing food for the holiday.
Food insecurity is a real and present issue in our community, Jewish and beyond. Many children who depended on school for breakfast and lunch, as well as backpacks of food for the weekend, now have to pick up meals at assigned schools each day, creating an added layer of complexity for parents and caregivers. Families who only a few weeks ago did not rely on food pantries are finding themselves turning to this resource. There is also an increasing need for medical professionals and those in hospital settings to receive food, as they may not be able to have meals at home with their families.
Passover is a week away. We have a chance to add one more crucial step to our Passover preparation, ensuring that all who are hungry and all who have been rendered especially vulnerable by the ravages of COVID-19 have food to eat this Passover.
Later this week JCRC will be sharing information about ways to partake in this sacred mitzvah here in our own community, from the comfort and security of our homes. At this unprecedented time, fulfilling the commandment of ma’ot chittim will literally a provide a lifeline for so many of our friends and neighbors.