Why February is the giving month – D’Var Hadassah
There’s an awful lot of dysfunction around us – it’s akin to global warming: political, factual, very man-made and so far, seemingly impossible to correct. But there is progress. Even if we have to pinch and bite and claw back. Hadassah is part of that.
The Torah Portion for February is found in Exodus – it’s not quite the beginning of things as in Genesis, but moving on to a strong, new, difficult and beautiful tomorrow filled with hope and progress.
There’s an old story told by Rabbi Ed Feinstein and relayed by Rabbi Adam Greenwald about tikkun olam and individual generosity that we can learn a great deal from. It enhances the goals of Hadassah.
On the morning the Parshat Terumah was read, a wealthy man found himself falling asleep. He often slept in the synagogue in a comfortable place he would find on a pew in the back.
As often happens in that space between sleep and wakefulness, we can’t define the line between dream and reality. What the wealthy man heard was “And you shall place two loaves of bread before me always” (Exodus 25:30). In this murky moment, these words wormed their way into his ears and heart but not from the bimah, it came as a heavenly voice in his dreams.
Upon waking, he returned home and decided to see if this was a command from G-d. He needed to find out. After Shabbat ended and under the cover of darkness, he snuck back into the synagogue and placed two loaves of bread into the Ark -where else would the Almighty look – and then spirited away.
Just moments later, the synagogue’s poor janitor entered the sanctuary to tidy up after the day’s worship. As he cleaned and straightened, he spoke aloud to G-d of his troubles, particularly his difficulty in feeding his large family.
When it came to dusting off the Ark, he noticed the door was slightly ajar. Opening it, he discovered the two fresh loaves of bread. Still warm from the oven. “It’s a miracle,” he exclaimed. “A miracle.” He now humbly offered a blessing of gratitude.
The next morning, the wealthy man awoke with a deep sense of embarrassment. He knew with certainty that he must have dreamt the words about the bread, that he allowed his imagination to run away with him. He needed to return to the synagogue and collect the loaves before anyone found them and laughed at his foolishness.
Upon returning early in the morning and then opening the Ark doors, he found to his shock and amazement that the loaves were gone! Did this not prove it could not have been a mere dream? That G-d wanted his offering of bread and had consumed them as surely as He had accepted the ancient sacrifices that were placed upon the altar. Then and there, the wealthy man committed to bringing the bread just as often as he could.
This pattern went on for weeks, months, maybe years. Each shabbat morning, the wealthy man secretly placed two loaves of bread in the Ark. The poor man opened the Ark each Friday night and fed his family. Each believed they were party to a miracle. And they were, just maybe not the kind they had thought.
The Parshat Terumah begins with the command to all people to open their hearts and give what they can for the building of a holy space where G-d can dwell.
Hadassah does just this. We give, we build, we are part of the process of tikkun olam. There’s Ukraine. Mass shootings. Food deserts here and abroad. Inequitable medical care and access to education. The world is hard. The poverty of the heart –the lack of generous spirit can be laid in part to blame.
Continue to support Hadassah and the world will find our janitors and pair them with the miracle of the wealthy man – a man generous in spirit as well as in gold – and we each will contribute to the miracle of a holy place through the power of the ‘Women Who Do.’