A friend of mine recently returned from a trip to the States where she was trying to raise funds for an organization called Standing Together. This group does something simple and wonderful. They get a whole bunch of pizzas, cake, coffee whatever, and drive around to military bases giving the soldiers a nice little surprise.
She received a lot of support from many people, but ran into one problem. Some guy in New York was very concerned that giving to this organization might not qualify as tzedakah. He went to a New York rabbi who hit the books and delved into the subject. The Rabbi decided that giving to Standing Together was not, in fact, tzedakah.
He based his decision – made I am sure from extensive research – on the basis that active duty soldiers do not really NEED a hot cup of coffee. This answer then got passed around to a whole assortment of characters in New York who decided not to risk upsetting G-D by giving to the organization.
Listen up my friend, I hope this column reaches you. If you were not aware of it, in Israel kids serve in the Army. They do so because millions of people living around and even inside our land would like – to put it simply – to kill us. If there were no Army, there would be no Israel. If anyone believes that there should be a State of Israel, rather than yet another mass grave of Jews in the Middle East, you must support the kids who accept the obligations of the State and do their duty.
When it is cold and pouring rain, I don’t go out. I stay inside and read a book. The kids in the Army cannot do that. They stand in the freezing rain, in mud, in ice and hail protecting us, protecting the Jewish nation. I can think of no greater act of self-sacrifice then what they do.
Now, Standing Together wants to drive up to the soldiers in the pouring rain and say, “Hey kid, have a cup of coffee, take a slice of pizza.” Maybe the soldier gets a friendly smile and a minute of warmth in a twelve hour shift. Maybe this small act of kindness is what enables him or her to keep going, knowing how much he is appreciated. Maybe it helps stop the next guy with dynamite strapped to his body on his way to blow up a café full of people.
So now someone in America decides that he is going to sit in his warm house and tell others that giving funds to this organization is not tzedaka. He can rest happily knowing that none of his hard-earned money will go toward giving a cup of hot coffee or a slice of pizza to some kid with a rifle who really does not NEED it.
Look my friend, I don’t know who you are and I don’t wish to. But next time you visit Israel, on your way to your hotel look into the eyes of the teenagers guarding the checkpoint and try and think if YOU owe them anything. If you are still unsure, at least ask a Rav who lives here your question. Someone who has to daven that his kids come home alive every evening. Ask him if he thinks supporting the soldiers is Tzedakah. You might get a different answer.
Go ahead, I’ll give you some phone numbers. I don’t think G-d will be upset with you.
Shabbat Shalom from our blessed nation.