Pesach (Passover) is coming!! For many Jews around the world the focus of this time is to prepare the house, to clean out our chametz, get ready for seder and guests etc. There are many aspects of this holiday which we can involve our children and students in. In my kid’s schools and preschools, everybody brings in rags and cleaning supplies to scrub out their desks and classrooms. In many of the post high school programs I teach in, the students are getting busy preparing for seder by learning new commentaries and ideas to share. There is an additional aspect of Pesach that I believe we should be focusing on with our students to prepare them for the upcoming holiday.
Pesach is the holiday of freedom. We are assigned the privileges of freedom. That is, for example, why we lean at the seder and have someone else fill our cups for us. With freedom though also comes responsibility to help those less fortunate.
The practice of Maot Chittim evolved from giving the poor extra wheat to bake their own matzot to today’s practice of collecting money for the needy a month before Pesach in order to provide people with the food they need for Pesach and for their seder. There are many organizations that have special campaigns at this time of year to raise funds for this cause. There are organizations in the US who mobilize at this time of year to help people in the local community who are in need of their support.
In Israel approximately 25% of the population lives below the poverty line. One of the results of this is significant food insecurity for these people. In many cases, they don’t have enough food to feed themselves or their families. This appalling situation is exacerbated on Pesach when many people are unable to replenish their cupboards with specialty Pesach food and the basics required to make a seder.
There are many organizations in Israel such as Yad Ezra and Pantry Packers who work to provide much-needed food packages for these people. A great project for this time of year that combines multiple educational values would be for students to raise funds to help these organizations. It is a way for students to connect to the people in Israel and to help the people who most need it. It is also a wonderful way to connect students to an important aspect of this holiday that many students may not be familiar with. Seeing our holidays through the lens of social responsibility is an important step in teaching our children and students “kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh-all of Israel is responsible for each other.”