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Flour for Pesach

Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch begins Hilchot Pesach by saying: “We begin to inquire about the laws of Pesach thirty days before Pesach.” The Rama adds, “It is customary to buy wheat to distribute to the needy for Pesach.” The Torah states: “For six days you shall eat Matzah and the seventh day shall be a festival for Hashem, your G-d, and no work shall be performed etc. and you shall be glad before Hashem, your G-d; you, your son, your daughter, your servant and maidservant, and the Levi in your gates and the convert and the orphan and widow in your midst, in the place where Hashem, your G-d, shall choose to rest His presence there.” (Devarim, 16)

Rashi expounds this verse based on the Midrash that the Levi, convert, orphan, and widow are My (Hashem’s) four parallel to your four: your son, daughter, servant, and maidservant.

We see from here that one who makes certain to gladden the poor and downtrodden, meaning the Levi (who does not have money for the holiday of Pesach, for he did not have a portion of land in Israel), the convert, the orphan, and the widow, whom Hashem cares for and considers “His,” Hashem will reward him and gladden his four, namely his sons, daughters, servants, and maidservants. If one who does not gladden “Hashem’s four,” Hashem will not gladden “his four.”

It is thus a holy obligation upon every Jewish person to distribute charity to the poor before Pesach so that they may have sufficient funds to purchase Pesach necessities. Today, thank G-d, there are many trustworthy charity organizations to which one can donate one’s “flour for Pesach” money and they will in turn distribute these funds to the needy. There are some places where the treasurers of the synagogue collect funds from its members and they are responsible to pass these funds along to the poor. One must take care to donate these funds only to trustworthy individuals, as we have already explained in the Halachot of Tzedakah.

An incident occurred approximately forty years ago when Maran zt”l resided in Tel Aviv. Economic times were tough and some of the city’s Torah scholars were in dire financial straits and could not afford basic necessities for the upcoming holiday of Pesach for them and their families. These Torah scholars learned in Yeshivat Torah VeHora’a, which was under of the leadership of Hagaon Harav Eliyahu Shrem zt”l. When the latter realized the terrible state the members of his Yeshiva were in, he turned to Maran Harav zt”l to use his influence to convince the wealthy residents of the city to donate to the members of his Yeshiva. Maran Harav zt”l invited the city’s most affluent men to a meeting where he implored them to donate to such a worthy cause. Indeed, several of the city’s philanthropists donated money to help these Torah scholars with the expenses of the upcoming Pesach holiday.
One of the members of the city was extremely wealthy and he owned a large store on Allenby Street, one of the most centralized and successful locations in the Tel Aviv. Maran Harav zt”l invited this man to come speak to him. When this man arrived at the rabbi’s chambers, the rabbi implored him to donate to the Torah scholars who were in financial crisis, just as he had spoken to the other wealthy men.
This wealthy man immediately replied to Maran zt”l that his financial situation was not what it used to be and that he had many other business-related obligations and that it was difficult for him to donate to the members of the Yeshiva at this time. Maran zt”l, knowing that this man’s financial state was well-off and that this was just an excuse to avoid donating, told him, “See here! Our Sages tell us in the Midrash that if you gladden My four [categories of] people, I will gladden your four and if you do not gladden My four, I will not gladden your four. I thus beseech you once again to gladden the hearts of these poor Torah scholars, whose good Hashem looks out for, and in the merit of this Mitzvah may you merit also being happy during the upcoming holiday of Pesach.” However, these words had no impact at all, and the wealthy man persisted that his financial situation at the moment was not good and that he could not help the rabbi at all. When the rabbi realized that his words had fallen on deaf ears, he dismissed the rich man and wished him well and much success.
Immediately following the holiday of Pesach, the telephone in Maran zt”l’s home rang and on the line was this very same wealthy man who had refused to donate to the Yeshiva’s scholars before Pesach. The rabbi asked him what he needed, to which he replied that he needed to meet with the rabbi urgently. Maran zt”l agreed to see him right away in his office. This man arrived at the rabbi’s chambers and his appearance attested to the fact that he was in great emotional distress. The rabbi asked him what caused him to ask for this meeting with such urgency. The wealthy man began to wail as he recounted, “The honored rabbi surely remembers that several days before the holiday, he had called me here to ask me to donate to the Yeshiva’s needy scholars for the upcoming holiday, to which I replied that I could not do so at the moment.” The rabbi answered, “Yes, I remember.” The wealthy man continued, “Does the rabbi remember what he told me afterwards, that if I gladden Hashem’s four, Hashem will gladden my four and if I do not gladden Hashem’s four, Hashem will not gladden my four?” The rabbi replied, “Yes, I remember that too.” The rich man continued, “At the time the rabbi told me that, I laughed in my heart and told myself, ‘Do I not possess great wealth? My life is going great, my children respect me, and I live at peace with my wife. If so, my happiness during this upcoming holiday is surely guaranteed and what is this Rabbi telling me that if I do not gladden Hashem’s four, Hashem will not gladden my four?’ I went home happy and satisfied with everything I have and about the fact that I was able to avoid the obligation the rabbi tried to place on me.”
“On the Seder night, I returned home from synagogue and my two older sons were sitting in the living room and when I saw them I said something to them. Immediately, they both rose and grabbed me from both sides and exclaimed, ‘Enough! We’ve had it with you and all your nonsense!’ They proceeded to throw me out of the house and they locked the door on me. I sat the entire Seder night crying in the courtyard of my house about the treatment I received from my two sons after all I had done for them. I was pondering how it was that Hashem could do this to me. I immediately recalled the rabbi’s words, ‘If you do not gladden Hashem’s four, Hashem will not gladden your four,’ and I then shamefully realized why this had happened to me. I am thus coming to the honorable rabbi to notify him that I am fully repentant, and I beg forgiveness for my sins. Please, honorable rabbi, you too forgive me for lying to you and please bless me that Hashem should gladden me and that my sons should follow in the proper path.” Here ends the story. The wise shall understand and act accordingly.


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