Sharing our freedom

by | Mar 1, 2013 | Torah Thought

I have a brother who spends an extraordinary amount of time at the Kotel Hamaaravi (the Western Wall). Before he was married he even brought each of his dates to the Kotel. Despite the presence of a Mechitza, my brother managed to make these dates meaningful by greeting each one of the beggars by name and introducing them to his date. One particular girl was particularly struck by this habit. She did not end up marrying my brother, but she recommended that my brother meet the only other person she knew who could greet the Kotel staff by name. They were engaged a few weeks later.

I arrived in Israel on the day before my brother’s wedding with a strong desire to go to the Kotel and spend time with him. We arrived at the Kotel just before midnight and the soldiers on duty greeted my brother like an old friend. As they ushered us through the metal detector, an alarm went off. The soldier searched my brother and gave him a questioning look when he found and removed a case of cigars from his jacket pocket. “Those are for you guys,” Eliyahu explained, “I’m getting married tomorrow.”

As the smiling soldiers lit up and the aroma of cigars filled the Kotel plaza, I couldn’t help but notice the number of beggars approaching my brother and I. They didn’t want money. They just wanted to talk to Eliyahu, who looked straight into the first man’s eyes and said “I’m getting married tomorrow, please come to the wedding.” The joy on the man’s face was unmistakable, but I couldn’t tell if he was smiling for Eliyahu’s good fortune in getting married, or for his own good fortune in getting invited.

Eliyahu extended his sincere invitation to each and every one of those downtrodden men and women at the Kotel. He asked about their spouses by name, gave some money for a taxi, and expressed genuine regret when one fellow said that he would be too busy to make it to the wedding.

We made our way to the Kotel, prayed, and finally made our way home after midnight amidst calls of good wishes and through a cloud of cigar smoke. Needless to say, the wedding was beautiful and the couple began their married lives together with some of the most overlooked residents of Jerusalem.

As Pesach approaches, we prepare by grating potatoes, cleaning our homes. Jewish Law tells us that this is not enough. We cannot be complete in our celebration without first making sure that others can also celebrate as well.

In Biblical times we were commanded to eat an entire lamb on Seder night. Since one man cannot consume an entire lamb, he was forced to invite friends and strangers to join him in his meal.

Today we remember this tradition by giving “Kimcha Depischa”—special gifts to the poor to help them buy matzah and wine. We invite many guests to our homes and begin our meal with the words “all who are hungry come and eat; all who are needy come celebrate the Pesach.”

Don’t celebrate alone. Invite someone extra to seder this year, accept an invitation to share the holiday with friends, or just celebrate with your family – but appreciate their presence, recognize how much they add to your joy.

It is only by including others in our celebration that we can truly enjoy our freedom.

—Rabbi Sender Haber, B’nai Israel Congregation