About Us: Tools and Resources
Ma’ot Chitim - "Wheat Money"
In the opening paragraph of the Passover story recited at the Seder, we declare, "Let all who are hungry come and eat." In order to experience freedom ourselves,
we are exhorted to take steps to ensure that our brothers and sisters have the means to celebrate freedom, too.
In reality, however, most of the people who are hungry will not be coming to our front doors. Therefore, it is an age-old Jewish tradition to contribute generously
to ensure that everyone who is in need has the necessary provisions for the holiday—Kosher food, matzah, and wine. This special Pesach tzedakah, originally intended
to provide the poor with matzah, is known as ma'ot chitim, "the wheat fund."
The Origins of Ma’ot Chitim
The practice in Jewish communities of collecting money to assist the local poor to cover the cost of matzah is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud, which was compiled
more than 1,600 years ago. In times when every Jewish community had an organized kehilla (governing board) and central charities that cared for the poor, donating to
this Passover fund was the responsibility of all the city's Jewish residents. There was no set amount for this levy; every person was responsible to give according
to his or her means.
The Origins of Ma’ot Chitim at Sinai Memorial Chapel Chevra Kadisha
Ma’ot Chitim has been part of our Sinai tradition since the 19th century. It appears that the founders of our Chevra Kadisha brought this custom with them from
Europe to America. Past President Arthur Becker, z”l, recalled the days in which a chapel at Sinai was filled to the brim with Pesadicha food, including kosher
for Passover matzah, wine, and chickens. People in need would line up around the block, and the board members of the Chevra Kadisha would fill shopping bags for
people to assure that they were able to make a zissen und kasher Pesach – a sweet and kosher Passover. We continue this practice today by making contributions to
other agencies that enable this important aspect of our tradition to continue. Our contributions bring Seders to prisons, public institutions, and veterans’ hospitals;
support the “koshering” of kitchens in community senior institutions; supplement the additional expense of senior lunch programs; and help fill the pantries of those
who might otherwise be challenged to make a Seder.