World’s Largest Maos Chittin Operation Comes to Bet Shemesh. Mesamche Lev’s annual Pesach distribution has become a fixture on Yerushalayim’s pre-Pesach scene. The sight of thousands of Jews of every stripe flocking towards the distribution is a yearly marvel, and the excited chatter of hordes of children clutching shoe boxes almost drowns out the ubiquitous honks of drivers navigating impossibly clogged roads.
The distribution typically attracts families from every corner of the land. But this year, the residents of Bet Shemesh won’t be there. Thanks to an anonymous donor who sponsored a large part of the cost, Mesamche Lev will be hosting a satellite distribution in Bet Shemesh, where over 1,500 poor families, including more than 12,000 children, will get the same Pesach necessities as their counterparts in Yerushalayim. They will receive everything they need for yom tov, including meat, wine, grocery coupons, and shoes.
The community of Bet Shemesh includes many poor Torah families who struggle mightily to feed their children. It also includes American olim who left comfortable lives in the States in favor of the holiness of Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Moshe T., a distinguished kollel yungerman and mechaber sefarim, left his comfortable New Jersey home for the privilege of living in Eretz Yisrael. He lives in a tiny, cold apartment with his wife and nine children and is grateful to his parents for paying his rent. But they would be shocked to know that his children don’t eat fleishigs from Shabbos to Shabbos and that they wear their shoes for months after they start complaining that their toes are pinched. He is delighted that the distribution is coming to his hometown.
“There’s no shayla that Mesamche Lev is making our whole yom tov,” he says. “We’ll get everything we need–meat, wine, groceries, and of course, shoes. The children can’t wait. And that it’s here in Bet Shemesh is a real bonus. I don’t have to miss a single seder.” The Bet Shemesh distribution will go a long way toward bringing simchas yom tov and peace of mind to the city’s needy families.
Although the Bet Shemesh event will fill a large hall, it will be minuscule compared to the main event in Yerushalayim. There, the logistics of the distribution are mind-boggling. At this very moment, 42,000 children are walking down aisles of shoes, carefully arranged by style, size, and gender. The shoes are quickly disappearing, as the children choose top-quality, fashionable leather shoes to replace their pinching, worn out, snow-damaged footwear.
“My daughter’s old shoes are so worn, they fall off her feet like slippers,” says Dina H., a widow from Bnei Brak. “Now she chose brand-new navy flats with tan piping, just like the ones she admired in a store window. She is so happy. Thank you.” Overwhelmed with emotion, Dina wipes away a tear, and thanks the organization for bringing her children joy.
“It’s not easy to make my children happy,” she said. “But you did it. You brought orphans simcha.” For Mesamche Lev, it’s par for the course. By week’s end, the simcha operation will enter its second stage. Instead of shoe boxes, there will be cases of meat, poultry, wine, and grape juice awaiting pickup by throngs of recipients who will carefully set them aside for the Seder. There will also be grocery coupons redeemable at local stores.
The event is a magnificent display of ahavas Yisrael. Generous Jews from every corner of the world sponsor coupons, which are given to poor families. The poor use the coupons to “purchase” meat, groceries, and shoes–making Mesamche Lev donors directly responsible for all the joy at the distribution. The distribution has been “bringing simcha to life” for over 40 years and was the brainchild of Rabbi Zalman Ashkenazi, zt’l, the legendary founder of the organization. It is distinguished not only by the sheer scope of the distribution, which gives families virtually everything they need for Pesach, but also by the focus on maintaining the dignity of the recipients. It is tzedakah at its finest.
In recent years, Mesamche Lev’s work reached close to home as well, with its American programs serving an ever-growing number of families from our area. In addition to distributing funds to 368 widows in Eretz Yisrael, the organization helped close to 150 American widows, with generous checks.
That is besides subsidizing 46,000 pounds of matzah for over 2,000 large families in Boro Park, Williamsburg, Flatbush, Lakewood, Monsey, Monroe, and New Square. The families purchased the matzah at half price, paying just $12 a pound for expensive brands that retail at $25. The high-tech automated phone system that served those seeking to buy discounted matzah, at 718-705-6500, was flooded with calls from the moment it opened. Mesamche Lev also distributed shoe coupons to over 1,000 American kollel yungerleit, offering them a 50 percent discount in local shoe stores and dry-goods stores.
To participate in what is almost certainly the largest worldwide maos chittin operation, send your contribution to Mesamche Lev, 1364 53rd Street, Brooklyn, NY 11219, or call 718-506-1400. You can also download coupons for meat, groceries, shoes at mesamchelev.org. v