In less than a week, we will celebrate Passover. After the shopping, the cleaning, the Great Dish Transfer, the cooking, and setting the table, we will once again recreate in our own homes the seminal Jewish story of going from slavery to freedom. Whether it’s as brief as, “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat,” or as long as the traditional all-evening event, we pause, remembering that we were once slaves and now we are free.
Mere freedom is only the beginning, however. And so, on the second night of Passover, we start to count the Omer — 49 days leading up to Shavuot. In those seven weeks, we go from celebrating release from involuntary servitude to celebrating voluntary obligation, becoming am Yisrael, the people Israel, a nation created at Sinai.
Today, while the echoes of Sinai and “We will do and we will listen” still reverberate for many, even more compelling to others are the commandments to “remember that we were strangers in a strange land” and “let all who are hungry come and eat.”
For some, the specific wins out over the general; for others, the idea of taking on all of the mitzvot at once is overwhelming. (Remember, even the Israelites at Mount Sinai told Moses, “This is too much for us to take in, you listen and tell us what Hashem says.”) Sometimes we need to understand the meaning in mitzvot before we can fully take them on.
What does this have to do with the UJA Annual Campaign? It’s what I just said: Sometimes we need to understand the good we are doing — for ourselves and for others — in order to understand why we should give to the Annual Campaign. By being a donor to the Annual Campaign, you help build a better, safer, stronger Jewish community for yourself, your family, and your friends.
Through the work of our partner agencies, you literally feed the hungry, through our food pantries and kosher Meals on Wheels here in Greater MetroWest, via food cards for the elderly in the former Soviet Union and through hot lunch programs in schools in Israel. You help settle Ethiopian Jews, who were strangers in a strange land for centuries, in our Israeli homeland. You help strengthen our ties here in Greater MetroWest to Israel through our outstanding program of exchanges for kids, teens and adults, because your dollars support our rishonim, the Diller Teen Fellows, and the Peoplehood Project, just to name a few.
Between now and Shavuot, we’re going to remind you how crucial is your participation in the mitzva of a gift to the UJA Annual Campaign. You will see ads, posters, e-mail, snail mail, and more, detailing exactly the difference our agencies can make because of our support — because you are the heart of the UJA Annual Campaign.
Alone, we can make a personal splash. Together, with many hearts as one, we can make a philanthropic wave of impact.
On April 14, I hope you sit down to meaningful seders with family and friends, enjoying the security and freedom that being Jews at this time and in this place affords us. Between your seders and Shavuot, I hope that you will see the meaning in the mitzva of tzedaka and take your place in the Annual Campaign that does so much to change lives and to save lives.