A few years ago, my husband was in a bit of a bind. He had put in a fresh pair of contact lenses that morning – the kind that’s supposed to last a couple months – but it was 10 PM on Christmas Eve and he was out of solution. I suggested that we call one of the neighbors. We tried my friend Elana whose husband, Yossi, answered the phone. Elana, he said, did in fact wear contacts, but when I asked him if she had any spare solution, he apologized and explained that not only did she not have an extra bottle, the bottle she had left was almost empty. Yossi was about to say good bye when I interrupted him. “It’s OK.” I began. “We don’t need a whole bottle. All we need is a squirt – to get us through the night – until we can buy more solution in the morning.” As soon as I put it like that, Yossi was more than happy to help out. They had so little themselves, but it was still enough to make a difference to us.
In life, we sometimes don’t even consider trying because the magnitude of what we’re up against is so daunting we’re sure that our efforts will be futile. We resign ourselves to defeat without even a fight. In the story of Purim, the evil Haman was so wealthy and powerful, he was able to offer King Achashveiros ten thousand kikar of silver in exchange for the lives of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the kingdom.
How could you possibly vanquish a force like that? Impossible. Except, as it turns out, ten thousand kikar of silver equals exactly the amount of money that was collected by the Jewish people in the dessert generations earlier. The Children of Israel (all individuals above the age of twenty) were required to each give half a shekel (machatzis hashekel – we read this portion of the Torah right before Purim each year) as part of a national census. The rich did not give more, the poor did not give less. Everyone just stepped up and was counted by the very fact that they gave.
The Talmud refers to the machatzis hashekel as “the cure before the sickness.” What is the lesson here? While some problems may seem too big to conquer, we need not worry that our puny contribution is insufficient. That’s not for us to work out. That’s Hashem’s problem. What is on us is to simply put out whatever effort we can manage. (A phone call, a whispered prayer, even a smile are all acts that might seem insignificant to us but could be life changing to someone else.) The next person must do the same. And the next the same. And bit by bit, the impossible is achieved.
Seventy years ago Hitler – the modern day Haman – murdered six million Jews in cold blood. But it wasn’t just six million bodies that we lost. Countless other Jews fled from their heritage – converting to Christianity or simply disavowing Judaism because they were either too scared or too bitter to remain Jewish.
How could it be possible to reach Jews in hiding, people who–a couple generations later–themselves don’t even know that they’re Jewish? Impossible. Yet just this week, not one, not two, but three people in this exact situation reached out to us explaining that their Jewishness had been kept secret from them until recently due to the Holocaust, and each one was slowly finding his or her way back using JITC as a guide. As one of the woman put it, “I feel as though my heritage has been robbed from me!”
One of the men, a German Jew, whose family has been in Germany since before World War I sent a message: “You helped me so much with my struggle between ‘Should I be a proud Jew – or a Jew in disguise?’ Rav todot [Many thanks].” I was fascinated and wanted to know more. Why did this man not feel proud to be Jewish, I wondered. So I messaged him.
Apparently, after learning about his Jewish identity he began to study Torah, took a trip to Israel, even started observing some mitzvos. But he had really only been exposed to male leaders – rabbis and teachers. And he was afraid that his long-lost heritage was not so good to its women. As we know, there are many negative stories in the media of the oppressed Orthodox Jewish woman. (That is not to say that there are not some serious problems out there, but he, unfortunately, had never been exposed to all the good that exists.) However, upon hearing about my life and the lives of the Orthodox women we report on through the various platforms of JITC, he saw that there are, in fact, countless happy, fulfilled religious Jewish women in the world and he now feels proud to openly be a Jew himself.
This is just one of the many, many stories we have heard about a life being touched because of JITC. And that is why we have decided that after six and a half years of existing with next to no funding, it is time we scale our operation. We have set out on an impossible mission – to redefine what “Orthodox Jew” means to the world – yet we see that bit by bit that we are making a difference.
Now it is your turn to help us make that difference. We are crowdfunding a modest amount of money this week – $5000 for some much needed website updates and SEO improvements. We have a lot of money ahead to raise. It is a daunting task. But that’s for Hashem to worry about, now isn’t it! This is the beginning of some major growth, so please just be counted today and give whatever you can give. And bit by bit, we will achieve the impossible!