As we look forward to another wonderful Friday night ideally surrounded by family and friends, it is worthwhile to take a moment to consider those who are not in that fortunate situation. There are so many small and big ways we can help others on Shabbat.
Giving Tzedakah (Charity Money)
It is easy, while busy with our own Shabbat preparations, to forget that there are a large number of members of our community who don’t have sufficient funds or ability to make their own Shabbat meals.
A large part of Jewish ethos has to do with looking after others such as: the concept of Tzedaka – giving of ourselves and our resources, be this time, money, creativity or energy. Judaism encourages us all to give, with the ultimate reward as prescribed by the Torah.
It is a long-held tradition to give Tzedaka just before lighting candles on Friday night. It is considered auspicious to give Tzedaka just prior to doing a positive commandment, to reinforce the idea that we are fulfilling the positive commandments as set out by God. Therefore, in many homes you find a money box situated close to the Shabbat candles. This is an easy mitzvah that you could take on for yourself.
Inviting others to join you for Shabbat Meals
Within all our communities there are people who are lonely this could include single people, widows/ers and divorcees (even if they have children at home). One of the biggest acts of chesed we can do is invite these people into our homes for Shabbat meals.
If the individual is housebound, it might not be possible for them to come to you. Instead, you could offer to cook them a Shabbat meal and take it round before Shabbat and/or take time during Shabbat day to pay them a visit.
If it is not possible for you to offer the hospitality/meal yourself, there are community organisations committed to ensuring that everyone has enough food to make Shabbat.
Another option might be to speak to your local synagogue Community Care Group and let them know about someone in your community that might like a meal or hospitality for Shabbat.
US Community Care aims to ensure that all members feel part of a community that cares about them (irrespective of whether they are shul-goers or not!). The local US Community Cares groups support their members with a wide range of services, many of which help people on Shabbat: some of these services include befriending, walking people to Shul, and Shabbat/Yom Tov hospitality.
Most shuls have Chesed and Community Care committees that are always grateful for additional volunteers. If you would like to volunteer for a local community care group please contact the United Synagogue Chesed office on 0208 343 6238 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Ways You/Your Community Can Help Others
Telephone people who are unwell/housebound and unlikely get out over the house over shabbat
Offer to do Shabbat shopping for unwell/houseboundpeople
Make or buy challot always nicest if they are fresh rather than out the freezer!
Make a cake for Shabbat
During Shabbat (some of these need to be organised before Shabbat)
Invite people who will be on their own to join you for a meal
Offer to pick someone up from home or to meet them at shul so they don’t have to walk in or sit by themselves (this can be particularly useful for single mothers with young boys that they would like to be taken to shul)
Offering to walk and visit someone in hospital if a relative/friend cannot go due to distance involved
Organise a meal in shul (or in a house) for people who live in a specific street/block of flats so everyone has something in common and it’s less threatening than large shul events!
Using Kiddush as an opportunity to find out how people are good way of picking up on problems
Create a Shabbat hospitality rota for your shul to be able to accommodate people who you find out at the last minute are on their own
Phoning any regulars not in shul to make sure they are ok.
If a Mishabarach (prayer for speedy recovery) was said during the Shabbat morning service for someone who is unwell, find out if you can offer help to them or their family.