Many people correctly question the value of fasting. It impedes concentration and focus, thus turning Yom Kippur from a time of intense concentration to one of clock watching. I know that many time I have turned towards the clock to
count down the hours minutes and even seconds until eating is permitted. By teaching about, and advocating for the restoration of this long forgotten custom, we make the most important days of the year Yom Kippur, not just days of hunger, but a chance for people to recognize their good fortune, with a tangible outcome that assists the less fortunate.
For many Jews Yom Kippur is the most important day on the calendar, but it is completely meaningless. A day when our grandparents fasted. By imparting the wisdom of Isaiah 58, the Talmudic statement that the reward on fast days comes from the charity dispensed, and various rabbinic comments, Yom Kippur now presents Jews with the opportunity to embrace this one day of fasting, and transform it into a day of providing a feast for others.
By working with Hillel of Colorado, and Chabad at Denver University, we will reframe the meaning of Yom Kippur for students at Denver University and University of Colorado at Boulder. The funding will allow us to create the "Hunger Games" between these two rival universities. CU may crush DU in Football, but DU's Jewish student body has the opportunity to defeat them at a more important game, the altruistic hunger games that will help feed the hungry right here in Denver, and help provide for the hungry in Israel.
Most significantly, we have provided over $25,000 in hunger relief to Leket Israel, and various feeding charities in Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, New York, New Jersey, and the DC area. Additionally, the process through which those donations have come is inspirational. A personal favorite comes from a Judaic studies teacher in Westchester:
My girls and I spent most of the afternoon returning about 200 bottles from our recycling to get the deposits back- the $18 donation is from them.
By asking for only a small amount, (10,18,25,or 36) we are attempting to create a project that anyone can participate in, and feel as if they own. The Billionaire's $18 donation is equal to that of two young girls getting the deposits to make a donation.
Our entire project is based upon taking a piece of ancient Jewish wisdom that has fallen into abeyance, and bringing it back to the forefront of the fast day experience. Many Jews are aware that Mormons have such a custom (they are to fast the first Sunday of each month), when they here that the idea of donating the money saved was actually an ancient Jewish idea demanded by the prophets, and recommended by rabbis into the premodern period, they are inspired by the depth of our ancient wisdom, and appreciative of the opportunity to help others.
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