The work here is so much more than just the delivery of food to those who are in need. Each day often brings an opportunity to share the heart of Ha’Shem with those He brings into our lives. The day I met Yitzchak is one such experience. Yitzchak is an observant Israeli who works with another ha’mutah here in Sderot. He has a wonderful heart for those living in Sderot who are in need.
Over several months now both ha’mutahs have been working together on a project to gather and organize “war supplies” so that when the time comes we will have ready- to- deliver boxes of essential items. Yitzchak had been working on the food portion of our list and had contacted a few distributors here in Israel to get price quotes.
Yitzchak asked if we could meet with him to discuss the price quotes and also to go with him to one last distributor here in Sderot before making any final decisions as to what distributor we would use. We met and compared the price quotes and when we had looked at the proposed cost of each item we then went to the last distributor in hopes of being able to save a few more shekels. And so we met with the manager and after an hour or so had gone over each item and were given a price quote. Most of the items on our list were less expensive with this distributor, a few were higher.
After thanking the manager for his time and assistance we agreed to discuss the bid and call him with a decision. And so after a few quick errands and some shawarma for lunch, we returned to the ha’mutah to discuss the morning’s endeavors. So what’s the point? The point is the conversation we had with Yitzchak that began at lunch and continued into the afternoon as we returned to the ha’mutah.
You have to understand; observant Jews go to synagogue regularly and hear the reading of the Torah, but many do not read the Torah themselves on a regular basis. Their understanding of the Law and how to observe it mostly comes from the Midrash, the Talmud, the oral traditions and what “this or that” Rabbi says. In addition, there are many customs that seem to allow one to follow the letter of the Law while totally missing the heart of it.
For example, the Eruv is an actual wire that encircles most Israeli towns. There is one here in Sderot. If an actual wire does not exist then there are agreed upon structures that mark the outer boundaries of the town or city. The purpose of the Eruv is to extend the personal boundaries of one’s home and incorporate them into one large community domain. Why? Simply put, it is so that you can travel anywhere within the Eruv on the Shabbat and not be violating the Law.
Well back to my story… as we sat enjoying our shawarma and Cokes, and discussing the morning activities, Yitzchak said, “I don’t know what to do… Ye’shi said not to lie.” Ye’shi is the director of the ha’mutah that Yitzchak works with, and is currently in the States working with supporters. He had left Yitzchak in charge of the ordering and had apparently told him not to lie in order to get a better deal with the distributors. Ye'shi, understanding the Jewish mind set, left Yitzchak with that one simple instruction.
Now anyone that has visited Israel and has done any shopping in Jerusalem knows that there is a fine art to the bartering system here. Israelis enjoy the fine art of getting the best out of a deal; and Yitzchak is no exception. The goal in Yitzchak’s mind was to get the items we needed at the very lowest price. In his mind, telling the manager we had met with that morning that the other bids were lower than they actually were was simply the Israeli way of business; part of the fine art of getting the best price.
Well the obvious answer to Yitzchak’s question; “Should I lie?” was simply, “No!” And the explanation as to “why” was a wonderful opportunity for us to share the heart of Ha’Shem in the matter with our Israeli friend. Ha’Shem wanted to teach Yitzchak a truth and reveal His heart to him. Yitzchak’s point of view was that this was just business… “It’s the Israeli way in business,” he said. And so we shared…
“But that’s not what Ha’Shem’s Word to us teaches,” we said. We discussed Ha’Shem’s command; “Do not steal”, and how Ha’Shem requires strict integrity in all affairs of life. That any attempt to advantage oneself by the ignorance, weakness, or misfortune of another is fraud in the books of heaven. Ha’Shem also tells us that we are not to bear false witness; we continued, “Any intention to deceive constitutes falsehood.”
And so our conversation continued; “Now Ha’ Shem could have just as easily given us a totally different set of commands, but He didn’t. He carefully chose each one, and each one reflects who He is. Ha’Shem says to us, ‘Do not steal’ because He is righteous and faithful. He says, ‘Do not bear false witness’ because He cannot lie, there is no falsehood in Him. Ha’Shem’s commandments to us are not a random list of “Dos and Don’ts” that we can bend and manipulate. They reflect who He is; they reflect His characteristics, characteristics He wants to build in us, so that we might be able to reflect who He is in honesty and truth to a lost and hurting world.”
As the afternoon passed, we continued to discuss the heart of Ha’Shem versus the “letter of the law” Lessons were learn by all; Yitzchak heard Ha’Shem’s heart in the matter and agreed to speak the truth and trust Ha’Shem to bless his efforts. As for me, as a gentile; I was struck by the amazing opportunity I was given to share the heart of Ha’Shem with my new Israeli friend. Baruch Ha’Shem!