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Thirteen Year-olds or Thirteen Gallons?
Recalibrating our Charity Priorities
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

  Rated by 9 users   |   Viewed 11372 times since 9/11/06   |   10 Comments
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11/10/06
Please allow me introduce you to Yossi. Yossi is almost thirteen years old, and is in seventh grade at the local yeshiva. He was barely keeping pace in the lower grades, but when he started gemorah things began to unravel rapidly. He struggled to keep pace with his classmates for a few difficult months, but he kept falling further and further behind.

Yossi's parents divorced a few years ago. His father remarried and moved out of the vicinity. When Yossi is at his mother's house, he often davens at home on Shabbos morning. He is simply embarrassed to sit by himself in shul. During the week, his father tries to make the time to learn with him on the phone, but since he remarried; … well, you know how it is.

Yossi would have a decent chance at success in school if his parents could find and pay for a tutor to learn with him twice a week. But his heroic single mother is marshalling all her energy just to juggle the demands of work, her children and managing her home. Yossi's rebbi knows of a kollel fellow who could tutor him and throw him a life preserver that could save him from becoming a statistic. The tutor would cost seventy-five dollars a week. Yossi's caring rebbi went to his principal and asked him to try and find the funds to pay for the tutor. The (equally caring) principal sighed, thinking of how he was going to make payroll in three short days. He would love to help, but, … well, you know how it is.

Rochel or Rotel; Who Gets Your Charity Dollars?

I often think of the Yossi's (and the Rochel's) in our school system that are drowning due to the lack of funding for Jewish Education overall and for the types of intervention that could help them make it before they slide into the morass of at-risk behaviors.

I especially thought about Yossi and Rochel a few weeks ago as I read the Machberes column in The Jewish Press describing the preparation for the upcoming Lag Ba'omer and specifically the few lines describing the "hallowed custom" to supply "Chai Rotel" of wine and drinks to visitors in Meron.

For the past few years, large ads have been running in virtually all the Jewish newspapers during the weeks of sefirah encouraging prospective donors to contribute "Chai Rotel" of drinks to visitors to Meron on Lag Ba'omer, the yahrtzeit of Reb Shimon Bar Yochai, as tzadikim promised material benefits (yeshu'os) to those who contribute 18 'rotels' (a rotel is a liquid measure; 18 rotels equals 54 liters or about 13 gallons) of wine or drink to provide visitors to Meron with refreshment during their stay. And if the past few years are any indication, I suspect that many such ads will be presented to the readers of Jewish newspapers in the weeks ahead.

Communal A.D.D.

I am personally uncomfortable with the notion of hawking 'yeshuos' in advertisements for tzedakos, and I may address this issue in a future column.

But for now, let's discuss this "Chai Rotel" charity and how it stacks up with the needs of the Yossi's and Rochel's in our communities. Sadly, Yossi is not getting our attention as much as he should. There are no glitzy ads promising 'yeshuos' to people who will throw him a lifeline. In fact, if I may be so bold, I think that we suffer from communal A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder), where we are finding it difficult to pay attention to the needs of the children in our own communities.

Honestly, with our rebbeim and moros grossly underpaid and our yeshivos struggling to make payroll, is providing gallons of alcoholic drinks to adults who made a conscious decision to spend Lag Baomer in Meron a pressing communal need that begs to be addressed? Aren't there more appropriate venues for our charitable funds? Allow me ask another, more piercing question. Is it appropriate for someone who is receiving a tuition scholarship to go to Meron for Lag Baomer in the first place?

So, what will it be: Rochel's or Rotels? Thirteen-year-olds or thirteen gallons?

While you ponder these questions, the sad and confused eyes of the children who are not making it in our school system are looking to you for answers.

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Related Articles:
Rochel or Rotel?? – Responding to the Response
Back to Basics


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1. So Israeli- it drives me nuts!     2/13/07 - 9:10 AM
C.W. - Israel

I see that the "segulos" and "yeshous" campaign promises have made it to America as well. No children, R"L, 8times chai will bring you a bris soon!7times chai if in need of a sheva brochos, 9 times chai for an easy pregnancy -I'VE HEARD THIS, NO KIDDING! Its kind of like the chinese auctions, only this part of the world cant afford the material prizes so we offer spiritual ones instead. For all those out there who have a hard time giving tzedoka without being promised something in return, just remember that tzedoka (+teshuva+tefilla) cancels bad decrees. Now THAT's a good segulah!


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2. Proper Priorities     2/14/07 - 12:48 AM
independentfrumthinker.blogspot.com - ift321@gmail.com

Excellent article. As I have written on my blog, there are clear-cut Halachos as to the priorities of Tzedakah. Unfortunately, many are unaware of this. Hence, thirteen gallons before thirteen year-olds and Rotel before Rochel. All it takes is spending some time learning the Halachos or discussing the issue with a Rav.


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3. Bravo!     5/1/07 - 8:57 PM
Anonymous

Thank you for once again pointing out a glaring and fundamental misunderstanding of how Chesed and Tzedaka should be carried out. While the concept of "Chai Rotel" may be good, the priority it should be given in the face of issues closer to home should be apparent to all. Unfortunately this is not necessarily the case, which is why it is so important for individuals like R' Horowitz to stand up and speak out.


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4. Once again Rabbi Horowitz hits mark     5/1/07 - 9:18 PM
FE Rosenberg - Bklyn - effyzaz@aol.com

I really never heard of this Rotel business until I saw a poster today. What I dont get is How are they making money for Tzedakeh? If your paying for wine - whats left for the tzedakeh? (unless there is a "handling" fee). Thanks Rabbi


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5.     5/1/07 - 9:30 PM
Shuli

Thank you.


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6.     5/1/07 - 9:58 PM
Orthonomics - orthonomics@gmail.com

I appreciated this article the first time and still appreciate it. And while Independent Frum Thinker is 100% that learning the halacha should point the way, but the marketing is intense and can really throw a person for a loop if they don't have not discussed their priorities and planned ahead.


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7.     5/2/07 - 8:31 AM
abw - Israel

Can this be mass printed and mailed out? I don't have the means to do it, but maybe someone does...


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8. Don't mess with Rashbi     5/3/07 - 6:04 PM
M

Who is daring enough to say that increasing the joy on the day that Rashbi said should be celebrated as a wedding day, should not be high on our list of priorities?

I wouldn't mess with Rashbi. The Ari z'l had a talmid by the name of Rabbi Avraham HaLevi. This disciple had a custom to recite the Nachem prayer every day. Nachem is a prayer that is recited once a year, on Tisha B'Av but Rabbi Avraham so deeply mourned the churban that he recited this prayer every day!

Since Rabbi Avraham recited Nachem every day of the year he also recited it on Lag BaOmer. One day, the Ari z'l told his talmid, "Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai appeared to me and instructed me: 'Say to this man: Why do you recite Nachem on the day of my joy?'"

R' Avraham's son died as a result.

He could recite it on Shabbos! on Yom Tov - including Purim, but on Lag B'Omer?! Rashbi was makpid!


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9. on the mark     5/3/07 - 6:50 PM
Random - Yerushalayim

When asked about giving money for Chai Rotel, Rav Elyashiv has been quoted as saying (it was in the papers here) "D'varim B'teilim" (essentially that it's nonsense). He continued to say that it's better to give your tzedaka money to a worthier cause.


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10. been quoted as saying     5/7/07 - 1:34 PM
M

and you think that's reliable information?

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