I try to post to this blog once a month - ideally, around Rosh Chodesh (the first day of the Jewish month). Usually it's about something related to a holiday or special occasion taking place that month and connecting it to the six years we lived in Israel. Somehow the month of Sivan flew by before I could come up with a timely topic for Tammuz, the month that began today.
So I’m going ever so slightly off-topic to blog about...g’machim. Our sages tell us (Ethics of the Fathers, 1:2) that the world stands on three pillars – Torah, Avodah (service of G-d) and Gemillus Chassadim (acts of kindness). Gmach (spelled gimmel, mem, chet) is the Hebrew acronym for Gemillus Chassadim. G’machim is the plural. If someone offers something free of charge to benefit the public, he’s got a g’mach. Many Orthodox communities have a list of g’machim in their local community directories. There are g’machim for baby formula and bridal gowns, interest-free loans and loaner GPS’s. And I think it is safe to say that no place does g’machim the way Israel does. In Jerusalem in particular, you name it and there’s probably a g’mach for it.
When we lived there, we did what we could in the way of acts of kindness but we didn’t have a g’mach. Upon our return to the States, starting a g’mach was really the furthest thing from my mind – but it kind of just happened, as these things sometimes do. In brief, I (and my brother) live on the southern edge of our Orthodox community and our homes are among the last Orthodox outposts along the routes that most people will take if they walk to Sinai Hospital to visit someone on Shabbos or holidays. So, in the summer months, when the heat and humidity make a 45 minute walk feel like 4.5 hours, people can stop on our front porches for a cold drink and to rest their feet. We call these refreshment stands “Halfway to Sinai”. This year, we gave our g’mach a Hebrew name, Ayshel Avraham, in memory of and as a merit for our father, Avraham Shalom ben Chaim Yoel, a”h. Daddy passed away in November during the week of Parshat Vayeirah, the Torah portion which talks about the angels who came to visit Abraham when he was ill and the food that Abraham offered them (as well as his many other guests). We also provide a map with written directions on the back so that people can carry their water bottles – and whatever else they might be toting - to the hospital safely within the eruv (the legal limits of where one is permitted to carry stuff on Shabbos).
We don’t particularly want to do a brisk business - unless everyone is going to visit women who have just given birth - but even one "customer" a week (here, played by my hubby, my hero) is enough to make us feel that it’s worth the small effort. By the way, the red lemonade thermos as well as the white chairs and table that you see in the photo were all made and purchased in Israel and shlepped back with us when we returned. They just don’t make ‘em here like they do there – yes, just like my laundry rack ;-)
The three weeks beginning with the fast of the 17th of Tammuz and culminating with the fast of the 9th of Av are when we mourn the destruction of Jerusalem and our two Holy Temples (approximately 500 years apart). The Second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred among the Jews. The antidote to that tragedy and what we need in order to build the Third and Eternal Beit Hamikdash is baseless love. G’machim are some of the construction materials.
With Halfway to Sinai, my brother and I and our families are trying to do our small part to rebuild the Temple. It also helps me Remember Jerusalem and the gazillion g’machim that flourish there. Wishing you a meaningful Tammuz and a cold drink on every hot day ahead.