One of my favorite plays is Fiddler on the Roof, the musical set in Imperial Russia over a hundred years ago. Based on tales originally written by Sholem Aleichem, its main characters – Tevya the Dairyman, his wife Golde, and his five marriageable daughters – are well known. One of the lesser-known characters, and one of my favorites, is Reb Nachum, the town beggar. Here is a short section of the play’s dialog:
Nachum: Alms for the poor; alms for the poor.
Villager: Here, Reb Nachum is one kopek.
Nachum: One kopeck? Last week you gave me two kopeks.
Villager: I had a bad week.
Nachum: So, if you had a bad week, why should I suffer?
What does a play about an overwhelmingly Jewish village in Russia over a century ago, have to do with Christmas giving in Edgefield County in 2022? We can laugh about many of the foibles of the Fiddler on the Roof characters and about Reb Nachum’s logic, but it makes a point. What should we be considering when we ponder those charities related closely to Christmas? I’m thinking here about charities like Toys for Tots, the Salvation Army, the Harvest Food Bank, the March of Dimes, and locally the Johnston Food Bank, Women in Unity here in Edgefield, and our local Animal Shelters.
With inflation eating into all our incomes this year, many of us look at our holiday budgets, what gifts we can afford, and what is left for charity giving as the year 2022 nears its end. Those charities, those I named as well as your favorites that I surely have left out, also face the increased costs of everything they do: of their institutional overheads, and most importantly of the increased needs of those whom they serve. Can we afford to give as we have in years past, before even considering those increased needs? Here is where Reb Nachum’s logic comes in. Just because we may have had a bad year financially, why should we do less than we did last year to support those needs?
Whether your favorite Seasons Greetings be Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, or Have a blessed Kwanzaa, this holiday season we each need to consider those whose needs are greater than our own. We need to consider the timeless logic of that fictionalbeggar, Reb. Nachum.