21 Main Street, Rouxville, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Unity and Gratitude – The Message of Shavuos: The Foundation of Yad Aharon & Michael

We have just celebrated the festival of Pesach, the Jewish people’s freedom from the bondage of Egypt. However, national freedom or physical security without a striving towards moral perfection is not freedom, but only another brand of slavery – slavery to man’s inclination to degenerate, culminating in barbarism and chaos. No, Israel was to be emancipated, not once but twice – from the physical bonds of the cruel Egyptian servitude and then, with the giving of the Torah which enabled Israel to become truly free – free to live within a system of law which ensures the bonds of unity and integrity between Am Yisrael and our Creator and between Am Yisrael and humanity at large. Man needs to adopt a code of conduct and find the ability to discern between good and bad. He needs to be able to relate positively to his fellow-man. He needs most of all, to understand his role in the world and his purpose in the universe.

One of the names of Shavuos is Yom HaKahal, the Day of Congregational Unity. This name implies that the spirit of achdus (unity) prevalent at Sinai was a prerequisite not only for the original transmission of the Torah, but also for the success of all future assemblies. What is the source of this achdus that seems to be so crucial a factor in all of Jewish life throughout our history? On the most superficial level, we can attribute this to the Jewish people’s innate sense of oneness (And who is like Israel, one nation on earth?). Probing a bit further, we find that Klal Yisrael’s unity is based on a unique heritage common to all Jews – that of Torah, the “glue” that holds us all together.

The Sfas Emes states that the light of Torah that shines in every generation is directly proportional to the achdus that emits that light and I cannot help but see a parallel between this principle and the neshamah of Yad Aharon & Michael. Countless visitors to our Bayit comment on the palpable spirit of total acceptance and sensitivity to the feelings of others which permeates throughout the organization and which, in turn, creates an ambiance of safety, security and, indeed, achdus for our clients.

I have always maintained that Hashem “lives” at Yad Aharon & Michael and I can now attribute this to the spirit of unity which unmistakably characterizes every project under our umbrella, be it in-house (eg: “Yad’s Soup for the Soul” which celebrates its second Birthday on the 5th of May!); or involving the wider community (eg: “Chesed from the Garden of Eden” – our In-house Supermarket project).  The camaraderie of our clients amongst themselves and between them and the wonderful Soup Kitchen volunteers is guaranteed to eradicate any preconceived, but understandable, expectations one may have of the shame and zero self-worth of people who make use of such a facility in order to get at least one good meal a day. Indeed, this was one of my main concerns about launching such an “extreme” initiative and I was blown away by its instant success and by the gratitude of our clients for finally introducing the project!

Although the commandment to bring bikkurim primarily demonstrates gratitude to Hashem for the good He did for us in bringing us to Eretz Yisrael and affording us the opportunity to enjoy the fruits for which the land is praised, the mitzvah is a powerful reminder of the gratitude that we owe to the Almighty for the food we eat and the land that gives us the food. Our core food project – namely our weekly Food Hampers – filled with a variety of seasonal fruits, vegetables and other fresh produce, are a constant reminder of Hashem’s benevolence and, for many years, Yad Aharon & Michael has been able to supplement our Shavuot hampers with the ornate bikkurim put together with such love and care by the children from participating Jewish schools.

Whilst researching material for this Sponsored Feature, I came across the Shavuos publication of the Kollel Yad Shaul, going back to the year 5736 and it evoked in me some truly wonderful memories of what was then, a thriving Yeoville community! I’d like to conclude with a quote from the Editorial:

We as Jews bear testimony to man’s greatest hour and each one of us should be the personification of that very testimony. I entreat you – do not let Shavuos pass unheeded. Do not let your Jewish soul become covered with the dust of yet another year. Come and rejoice, come and relive the wonder that is Torah, come and celebrate the Birth of a Nation. It is, after all, really YOUR birthday.”

Chag sameach and Hashem’s blessing to you, your loved ones and the whole of Klal Yisrael.