I would like to do a survey of The Voice readers. Pause for a moment, clear your minds, and think about the following question: What is the most powerful moment for you during the prayers of the High Holy Days? Perhaps you have the same answer that I have? For me, the most powerful moment of the High Holy Day prayers, is, when the cantor recites these three words out loud, “U’teshuva, U’tefila, U’tzedakah.” Repentance, prayer and charity are probably the three most important words of the Days of Awe. They are the themes that are emphasized in all of our High Holy Day prayers. But they are also articulated in the Torah, and in this week’s Torah reading, Ki Teze.
In fact the mitzvah of tzedakah, is mentioned throughout this week’s parashah. To understand the mitzvah of tzedakah is to experience the emotion of communal identity.
It is therefore no accident that the Jewish Alliance has spearheaded its Access Jewish Rhode Island program. Too often, charity fosters permanent helplessness and dependency. The Access Jewish Rhode Island program appreciates this problem and aims to get people back on their feet as quickly as possible. Access Jewish Rhode Island helps people cope with their challenges through their own efforts, and helps them maintain their dignity and independence. Access Jewish Rhode Island is turning help into hope, which is the highest form of tzedakah.
Maimonides writes that he never saw or heard of a city in which there lived 10 Jews and that did not have a charity fund. We are very fortunate to live in a community where our leading Jewish organization is in tune with the values and ideals set forth in our holy books and prayers.
As we approach the new year, may we all be inscribed in the book of good life, and may we all work together to publicize the great work that Access Jewish Rhode Island is accomplishing every day.
Rabbi Marc Mandel is the rabbi at Touro Synagogue in Newport.