Reach out and help someone: Ha’achalat Re’evim/Feeding the Hungry

“You shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your needy brother,

but…lend him sufficient for his need.”

~ Deuteronomy 15:7

The Jewish calendar is complex and once in a while we need a Leap Month in order to insure that we are not celebrating Passover in July or Rosh Hashanah in December.  I will let others more articulate than I explain why this is so, but it is our good fortune to be welcoming the Jewish leap month of Adar I (Also called Adar Rishon/ the first Adar or Adar Alef), this coming Shabbat (Friday evening, February 4.)

Since Adar is the month in which we celebrate Purim, one of Judaism’s most fun and festive holidays, it is as if we have been granted an extra 30 days to plan, prepare and look forward to Purim and perhaps get in a few extra mitzvot (commandments, good deeds) for good measure. In truth, amid all the fun and frolic, Purim has four big responsibilities: The mitzvah of listening to Esther’s story, the mitzvah of celebrating Purim with a meal, the mitzvah of sending gifts to one another, and the mitzvah of sending gifts to the poor. That brings me to this month’s Jewish value: Ha’achalat Re’evim/Feeding the Hungry.

In these difficult economic times, when many of our neighbors face the daily challenges brought on by unemployment or underemployment, whatever we can do to support their struggles is a blessing. Here is a list of books that may help you become more aware of their plight and how you can help:

Bone Button Borscht by Aubrey Davis. Illustrated by Dusan Petricic. Kids Can Press, Ltd., © 1995. A beggar arrives in a small town on a cold winter’s night hoping for a hot meal. Instead he finds empty houses and no one to share any food with him. Until he begins cooking up a pot of Bone Button Borscht. Ages 4-8.

The Lady in the Box by Ann McGovern. Illustrated by Marni Backer. Turtle Books, © 1997. During the winter holiday season, a brother and sister secretly try to help a woman they see sleeping in a box outside of their local deli. Of course, when their mother finds out what they are doing, she gets involved and everything changes. Ages 4-8.

Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier. Illustrated by Lori Lohstoeter. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, © 2001. When an African family receives a goat from Heifer International, a young girl is able to attend school. Ages 4-8.

Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen Written and illustrated by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan. Morrow Junior Books, © 1991. A young boy spends the day with his uncle at the local soup kitchen where he works feeding the community’s poorest residents. Ages 6-9.

Dew Drop Deadby James Howe. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, © 1990. Three children investigate a murder involving the homeless shelter in town. Ages 9-13.

Darnell Rock Reporting by Walter Dean Myers. Delacorte Press, © 1994. A thirteen-year-old boy who is uninterested in school suddenly finds himself the center of attention when he joins the school newspaper and becomes an advocate for the homeless using a piece of school property for a vegetable garden. Ages 9-14.

A Kids’ Guide to Hunger and Homelessness: How to Take Action! by Cathryn Berger Kaye, Free Spirit Press © 2007. An excellent book packed with great ideas for social action projects and ways to get involved in this serious issue. Ages 9-14.

This list, and the upcoming list for older readers, should assist you and your family in understanding the plight of the poor and hungry in our communities, You can also visit for a look at what the Jewish community is doing to help fight hunger. It is my hope that with understanding comes the ideas and the assistance necessary to see an end to the difficulties suffered by so many all over the world. Ken Yehi Ratzon/ May it be God’s will.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by my local public library.
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