July 18, 2024

What Does Maos Chitim Mean and Why Does It Matter?

Pesach Preparation in Full Swing

As we gather around our Seder tables filled with traditional foods like matzah, bitter herbs, charoset, and more, we should also remember those who may not have the means to do so. Maos Chitim allows us to fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah (charity) and truly embody the spirit of Passover by helping others in need. This article will explore the history of Passover as it relates to Maos Chitim and explore ways in which we can continue this tradition today.

What Does Maos Chitim Mean?

Maos Chitim, also spelled Maot Chitim, is a Hebrew term that translates to “money for wheat” in English. It refers to the traditional Jewish practice of collecting donations and funds specifically designated for purchasing food staples such as wheat, flour, or matzo (unleavened bread) before the Jewish holiday of Passover.

The Meaning of Passover

Passover is a major Jewish festival that commemorates the liberation of Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. It is a time of remembrance and celebration, as well as a time for observance of religious rituals and traditions. Jewish families traditionally gather together on the first night (and second night in the Diaspora) of Passover for a special meal called a Seder, during which they recite traditional blessings and prayers, and retell the story of their ancestors’ exodus from Egypt.

The Origins of Maos Chitim

In ancient times, when agriculture was the main source of food production and storage methods were not advanced, many people relied on their annual harvest to feed their families. As Passover falls in early spring, it was traditionally a period of scarcity and poverty for those who had yet to bring in a new crop.

Maos Chitim arose as a custom meant to alleviate this burden and ensure that everyone could celebrate the holiday with an abundant table. It has since become an integral part of Jewish communal life worldwide.

Practicing Maos Chitim

Maos Chitim is extensively observed in Jewish communities worldwide. The process typically starts months before Passover when Jewish non-profit charity organizations begin collecting donations from members of the community. These funds are then used to purchase food and other Passover necessities, which are distributed to those in need a few weeks before the holiday period.

Passover occurs every spring from the 15th to the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan. It is part of a larger sequence of festivals on the Jewish calendar known as Shalosh Regalim. During these celebrations, members of the community follow a prescribed dietary regimen in honor of our ancestors’ 40-year journey through the desert after fleeing from slavery in Egypt. Jews eat unleavened bread called matzah and avoid leavened foods called chametz, which includes wheat, barley, rye, oats, and spelt, during Passover. Some Rabbis allow Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews to eat rice, corn, and kitniyot during the festival.

What Giving Maos Chitim Looks Like Today

Over time, the concept of giving wheat has evolved into collecting funds from the community and distributing them to those in need before Passover.

Many find it meaningful to focus Passover philanthropic efforts on charities for the poor and non-profit hunger initiatives given their direct connection to food insecurity. While a majority of households no longer rely on self-grown crops for meals, it’s still important to recognize the fact that many Israeli and Jewish families don’t have enough money to cover their grocery bills. 

Observing special Jewish holidays like Passover further requires the ability to be selective over what you put on the Seder table – a privilege that those who go to food banks aren’t always afforded.

You’re Honoring the Meaning of Passover When You Donate to Jewish Charities

Maos Chitim, alongside other prominent holidays in our faith, are important for more than their significance to Jewish history. They also embody Jewish values and offer us an opportunity to engage in acts of kindness. Prominent leaders in the Chabad movement have long championed the importance of both following this mitzvah (commandment) and enriching the lives of the Jewish people through community service.

Acts of loving-kindness can take many forms, so there are plenty of ways to give back during Passover. The Eight Degrees of Giving provides a framework for how to do so. Anyone, regardless of their age or income level, has a way to contribute, whether that’s signing up to volunteer or donating to help widows and orphans. Or perhaps you want to invest in a future of self-sufficiency for Jewish people through children’s education funds. Contributions towards good causes are all meaningful giving opportunities during this holiday.

Maos Chitim to Colel Chabad Makes a Difference

You undoubtedly want your Passover tzedakah to go as far as it can. As the oldest Jewish charity in Israel, Colel Chabad is the best Jewish nonprofit to donate to and ensure just that. Our organization was founded over two centuries ago by the first Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. Since then, we have been dedicated to providing assistance and support to vulnerable populations in Israel.

Our Pantry Packers program is just one of many initiatives that Colel Chabad offers to help alleviate poverty and hunger in Israel. Through this initiative, we provide families in need with food packages filled with traditional Passover foods, as well as basic necessities like flour, oil, and sugar.

Give More Than Wheat Money – Give Hope

Practicing philanthropy by giving tzedakah is a mitzvot year-round, but especially impactful during key Jewish holidays like Passover. Your donation can make a big impact on the lives of individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet in Israel. With so many ways to get involved, there’s no excuse not to help those in need during this special time. Don’t wait any longer – donate today.


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