Each year, for the past 2,000 years, Jews worldwide commemorate the destruction of the two ancient Holy Temples in Jerusalem, which led to their exile from the Holy Land. For nine days (this year July 24-August 1), Jews limit what they eat and drink as part of a national mourning. The last day of these nine days is a 25-hour fast on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av (called in Hebrew Tisha B’Av).
The Hebrew prophet Isaiah teaches that Jerusalem will be rebuilt through righteous acts and the giving of charity.
“You shall be established through righteousness.” (Isaiah 54:14)
“Zion [Jerusalem] shall be saved through judgement and returned through charity.” (Isaiah 1:27)
To fulfill the words of the prophet, the Meir Panim charity organization created an apropo “Vision of Isaiah” project. “Though Meir Panim welcomes volunteers all year round to serve lunch at our free restaurant-style soup kitchens located throughout Israel, we reached out to Members of Knesset, Bridges for Peace and news-makers asking if they would like to volunteer at this special time of year and, hopefully, help speed the redemption,” Goldie Sternbuch, Director of Overseas Relations for Meir Panim.
“The response has been heartwarming and participants have been very moved by their experience.”
Rabbi Tuly Weisz, CEO of Israel365, volunteered with his wife, Abby, daughter, Shaindee, and Shaindee’s friend. The family expressed their joy at helping and being able to share their bounty with others. “Isaiah tells us that Jerusalem is not like any other city,” Rabbi Weisz explained. “Isaiah teaches that the key to restoring the Holy City and its Temple lies in extending a hand to the needy. The ‘Vision of Isaiah’ project is an ideal opportunity for us to each do our part to fulfill this prophecy.”
Shaindee Weisz and her friend distributed decorative and delicious cookies in honor of her bat mitzvah. The 12-year-old wanted to fulfill a Biblical commandment for this special rite-of-passage by feeding the hungry and downtrodden. “Everyone at Meir Panim was really nice,” an enthusiastic Shaindee expressed. “The staff is caring and friendly, and the patrons really appreciated getting an extra cookie treat with their lunch.”
By fulfilling the “Vision of Isaiah” through feeding Israel’s hungry, Meir Panim brings joy to those who experience mournful, hungry and lonely lives all year round. “Israel’s poverty-stricken citizens struggle every day to find joy in their lives,” said Sternbuch. “Especially during this tragic time of year when joy is decreased, increasing our good deeds, particularly through giving love and care to Israel’s neediest citizens, has special meaning.”
Meir Panim’s Jerusalem free restaurant is intentionally located near the city’s central bus station in order to make it as easy as possible for people to get their food. “People need to eat a nutritious meal every day,” said Sternbuch. “For many, the meal that the volunteers serve them is their only food for the day. We do all that we can to ensure that Israel’s impoverished citizens receive daily a proper and delicious hot meal. That’s Meir Panim’s vision and we hope that, through our serving those in need, Isaiah’s vision will soon be revealed.”
Many others took the unique opportunity to volunteer at Meir Panim during the nine-day project, including Avi Abelow, founder of 12Tribe Films, Jerusalem Post‘s David Brinn and volunteers from the interfaith organization Bridges for Peace.