As a young man, Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz chose to spend a few summers helping the local shluchim at Chabad-Lubavitch of Alaska. He would routinely stand outside the Alaska Visitors Center in downtown Anchorage with a pair of t’filin and packets of information about Jewish programs, greeting tourists disembarking from the scenic cruises along the Alaskan coastline. If they were Jewish, he would let them know where they could find a minyan or a good kosher meal.

All his life, Rav Chaim Kreiswirth zt”l was involved in collecting tz’dakah for the poor and needy and helping other people. In the latter part of his life, Rav Kreiswirth was extremely active raising hachnasas kallah funds for poor orphans, as well as supporting Yeshivas Merkaz HaTorah, where he was the Rosh HaYeshivah. Baruch Hashem, he was quite a successful fundraiser, in no small measure due to an amazing story that he was very much a part of.

Rabbi Levi Welton is the rabbi of the Lincoln Park Jewish Center in Yonkers. He tells an amazing story of how he recently decided to visit his parents in Sacramento, California, on a random Shabbos in the winter. He went to daven Shacharis at the closest shul, a Chabad minyan, and when he was there, there was a kiddush in shul after davening. An out-of-town family was there that Shabbos celebrating their daughter’s bas mitzvah and chose the Chabad center for the celebration. It was a beautiful kiddush, replete with singing, Torah inspiration, and some hearty l’chayims.

The Torah commands us to treat our poor and impoverished brethren with dignity and respect. The Alshich HaKadosh zt”l explains that if one sees that his friend or neighbor has become impoverished, he must consider that person as “your brother,” literally as your family member, because the whole reason why there are poor people in the world is just so the wealthy can gain merit through them by giving tz’dakah and supporting them. If not for the poor, these wealthy people would have fewer z’chuyos. Thus, the Torah states: “You must support him...so that he shall live.” In other words, support him while he is still considered “alive” and he has not fallen into total indigence and destitution, when he is considered as if he was dead. The wealth and riches that HaKadosh Baruch Hu doles out to those who are fortunate to receive Heavenly bounty are meant to give life to our brothers. That is the purpose of wealth.

Freedom was not something that was lost in Russia when the Soviets took power and established the USSR, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In fact, the government was zealously restrictive in Czarist Russia, as well. There was no freedom of speech, and certainly no freedom of the press. The Central Bureau of Censorship, known as the CBC, appointed a network of censors across the country, with subordinates in the local villages reporting to their superiors in the larger cities. Every newspaper, every publication, every book was checked prior to its circulation. If a censor chanced upon even a single sentence that struck him the wrong way, the media was condemned – never to see the light of day.

The first pasuk in Parshas Emor is unusual due to the repetition of the words, “Say to the kohanim,” and then again, “You shall say to them.” Rashi quotes the Gemara that the repetition should be interpreted as follows: “Say to them” – relate to them these words: “You must tell your children not to defile themselves.” Each kohen is exhorted to teach his children to follow the special laws affecting the kohanim, for it is what their lives are all about. The lesson here is two-fold: If a parent wishes his children to identify with Jewish ideals, they must be taught by example to follow those ideals. Secondly, Jewish ideals must occupy a significant place in a child’s view on life. Jewish education in a significant measure, with parents setting the example, is the only tried and true method of raising children who make Jewish identity a priority in their lives.