This summer Holy Blossom Temple erected two ‘self-serve’ food pantries on the corner of Dewbourne and Bathurst. These food pantries resemble the tiny libraries you can find throughout Toronto, and more than once were filled with books from well-meaning passers-by.
A small group of dedicated volunteers spent the summer donating supplies, located in the Janis Rotman Tzedakah Centre, and stocking the food pantries multiple times a week. Often I would see these volunteers coming into Holy Blossom in the early afternoon to do their sacred work, and by the time I left Holy Blossom in the early evening, I would stop to check and see what had gone out. Many times, in the space of just a few hours, the pantries would already be empty.
One day, while walking to my car in the parking lot, I saw a father playing with his young daughter near the corner. She shyly glanced at me, tugging on her father’s arm to ask me something. I smiled and approached, asking if there was anything I could do for them. He responded by asking if we would still be donating food through the ‘little houses.’ His wife had heard that there were ‘two little houses, but instead of books they have food.’ and sent him to see if there was anything he could bring home. While the pantries were already emptied, the tzedakah centre still had some food inside, and he was incredibly grateful.
How he phrased it, “the little houses” stuck in my mind. It reminds me of the Hebrew teaching “Mikdash M’aat.” A Mikdash M’aat is a personal sacred space, a ‘small sanctuary’ as opposed to the vastness of the Beit HaMikdash, the Temple in Jerusalem. It is any place where God can dwell in the miniature. What could be a more ringing endorsement of this holy work than what this man showed me with his words? That for his family, our ‘tiny houses’ are in fact a Mikdash M’aat, small spaces where the mercy, kindness, and love of God appears.
We have so many neighbours who could use a little bit of help, families, for whom a free meal or a few extra groceries will make all the difference. This year, and especially during these High Holy Days, I am asking you- the good people of Holy Blossom- to help us stock up on donated food items so that we can continue to give our neighbours a helping hand. This is a wonderful opportunity to make sure that when our volunteers, and our students at the Religious Education Centre, go to stock the food pantries there is a deep and generous pantry to pull from.
Please feel free to bring canned and dry goods, beans and soups, shelf-stable grains and cereals, pasta, sauces, tinned fish like tuna and salmon (but leave that bottle of gefilte fish from Passover at home), and other nutritious food with you to Holy Blossom Temple in the coming weeks. During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, there will be a clearly marked place to put your donations. If you are visiting us outside of worship times, you can place your donations directly into the Janis Rotman Tzedakah Centre, located directly inside the doors of our Ava Road entrance on the left-hand side.
וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם׃
V’asu li mikdash veshachanti b’tocham.
And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them. (Exodus 25:8)
Shana Tovah Umetukah!
May it be a sweet and happy new year!