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Rabbi Ari Enkin

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

When giving charity, the most important principle is to respect the feelings and dignity of the people involved. Never embarrass anyone!

There is a well-known requirement to donate money to a special Passover charity fund, known as “Ma’ot Chittim,” which is used to purchase Passover food for the poor. Every Jewish community in the world has a Ma’ot Chittim fund.

Although raising money for Ma’ot Chittim is a major operation, distributing the money could be an even more challenging operation. This is because heroic efforts must be made in order not to embarrass the recipients of these funds or to make them feel inferior in any way. As such, the distribution of these Passover funds is one of the most confidential missions.

A famous story about the great Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodenski of Vilna (1863-1940) illustrates how we must concern ourselves with the feelings and dignity of recipients of charity.

One year, after prayer services on the first night of Passover, a man approached Rabbi Grodenski, clearly wishing to speak with him. He stepped forward and quietly told the rabbi that he and his family had no food or supplies to hold the Passover Seder. Rabbi Grodenski got “straight to work” thinking up a plan that would help the fellow in a manner that no one would know that he was needy.

All of a sudden, in a rather loud voice in front of all those who were present, Rabbi Grodenski yelled out, “It’s not Kosher! All the Passover food you prepared is simply not kosher!” When onlookers heard the rabbi’s “ruling” they felt terrible for the man, who they assumed had prepared a complete Passover feast, but had accidentally used utensils or ingredients that were not kosher for Passover. Without missing a beat, all those present approached the fellow, each offering to help him out in some way. Offers of kosher for Passover food and eating utensils began pouring in. One congregant gave the man fish, the other gave soup, someone gave meat, and in a matter of minutes, the destitute man had everything he needed to hold an extravagant Passover Seder. Nobody knew the truth about the man’s unfortunate situation.

Giving charity is VERY important! HOW you give charity, might be even more important!

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