Turn the calendar back fifteen years.
Thousands of individuals are facing financial crises and are crying out for salvation And the Gedolim cannot sleep at night. What can be done?
Perhaps they should set out from their homes like the Tzadikim of previous generations? Climb the steps to your home, knock on your door, look you in the eye, and beg you to give tzedakah?
If you would see them, you would surely donate immediately, generously, as much as possible. But on how many doors can they knock, and for how many poor would the money suffice, when there are tens of thousands in need?
Out of this, on 15 Elul 5760, an empire of chesed was born.
Am Yisrael are perceptive, and recognized that this was not just one more knock, one more charity asking for money. The public realized that this was the same call for charity that began with Abaye V’Rava, and knew that it was the hand of Rav Chaim Kanievsky himself knocking on their doors.
Thus Kupat Ha’ir began. And thus we have continued for over fifteen years, collecting and distributing, gathering and giving. One hundred million shekels every year, to thousands of the poor.
Fifteen years through which Klal Yisrael has given and given, with love and devotion, without division or discrimination, without preference for certain groups or political circles.
Fifteen years, encompassing hundreds of thousands of donations to the poor of Eretz Yisrael. Assistance to hundreds of poverty-stricken chassanim and kallahs. Complicated medical and family situations, families who are quietly slipped an envelope enabling them to purchase bread for the children, dental treatments for a blind woman, an emergency air-lift of an infant to surgery overseas, the chasunah of two geirim…
This year we find Kupat Ha’ir in the midst of bustling activity twenty-four hours a day, and growing constantly in all aspects.
Many more applications for assistance, many more areas of support. Much more organized and far-reaching, and much more money needed.
Fifteen years - and now is the time to make a cheshbon hanefesh; is my own individual family a participant in this empire? Are we as a community regular participants in the tzedakah of the Gedolei HaDor, in the tzedakah that distributes over a hundred million shekels yearly to the poor of Eretz Yisroel?
Ten Thousand Giborim
Five years ago, when the Kupa was ten years old, Maran Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a felt that an urgent change was necessary. The Kupa needed to supply financial assistance on a regular basis to thousands of families, and it was no longer possible to rely on the one-time donations that came in.
With trepidation, Rav Chaim’s gabbaim entered his room, waiting in suspense to hear his words. Maran Rabbenu HaGaon Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a turned to his gabbaim and said,
“We need to find ten thousand giborim! Turn to the tzibur, tell them that we need help. There needs to be a steady base of funds so that we will have what is necessary. And b’ezras Hashem – the names of all those who sign up to be monthly donors will be written in a sefer which will always be on my table, and I will daven for them every week.”
This is what the Gadol HaDor instructed five years ago - and his words found their way to thousands of hearts. There were those people who were excited to have the merit of their names being continually in front of the Rav and meriting his tefillohs. There were those to whom the fact that this sefer was always on his table showed the importance of this issue to Maran shlit”a. There were those who wanted to merit to assist the Kupa which feeds the poor of Am Yisrael. After all, in the Chofetz Chaim awesome words are written about the importance of such a tzedakah. There were those who wanted to be the giborim who fulfilled the wishes of the tzaddik.
And thus 10,000 people signed up to give a monthly donation.
And now, after fifteen years of the Kupa’s existence, cries have again risen from the mouths of the poor. In this fifteenth year, what was suitable after ten years of the Kupa’s existence is no longer suitable today.
In these past five years the Kupa has experienced tremendous changes. From an organization that distributes food to the hungry, it has grown to be an empire that fulfills many functions: it distributes monthly stipends for basic neccesities, sets up funds for chassanim and kallahs, funds for those in dire circumstances, funds for medical situations, and it also helps and partners with nearly all the local tzedakah organizations throughout Eretz Yisroel.
Again, as before, the gabbaim entered Maran shlit”a’s room. They stood there and asked themselves what Maran shlit”a would do this time with the Kupa which he founded and loves so much.
And this Ish Kadosh, the Gadol Hador who said fifteen years ago, “Open a tzedakah organization,” and who said five years ago, “Bring monthly donations” – he is the one who now said, “we need to do it again.”
He added, “Again we need 10,000 giborim who will stand by us. The Kupa has grown- the need for tzedakah has grown!”
Thus Maran shlit”a made it known that he is again requesting ten thousand giborim who will stand by us, who will help support Kupat Ha’ir by insuring a sufficient base of support every month.
And for this purpose, uncharacteristically, this Torah giant grasped his pen, and from the depths of his heart he inscribed the most precious blessings that any Jew could wish for himself.
He prepared a Birkas Habayis, in his own handwriting, which you too can receive if only you become a monthly supporter.
Maran shlit”a also requested to personally send a Birkas Habayis to each monthly donor. You could merit to have the Birkas Habayis of Maran Hagaon Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a in your home!
This is what Maran inscribed in his holy handwriting:
“Birkas Habayis. In the merit of your regular donations to the tzedakah Kupat Ha’ir- your home should be filled with Hashem’s blessings. May you merit robust health, and long life. May you be spared from all types of troubles, and merit great yeshuos. Chaim Kanievsky.”
Maran shlit”a inscribed these words especially so that they should reach your house, as a participant together with him in supporting Kupat Ha’ir.
After this Birkas Habayis was prepared and framed, the gabbaim of Kupat Ha’ir came to Maran shlit”a to show him the finished product. Maran shlit”a took the Birkas Habayis and examined it thoroughly. Finally he said, “Only one thing is missing. This Birkas Habayis is missing the word BS”D”
Then he took out his pen, stopped, and deliberated- where is the best place to write the BS”D? On the right side? In the middle? He pointed and showed: Here. Here is where it needs to be. He took his pen and added the word BS”D in the center.
Whoever knows Rav Chaim and was with him in his simple room could not believe what he was seeing. What importance he attaches to this Birkas Habayis! It isn’t his nature at all to involve himself in such things. But for Kupat Ha’ir’s sake, it is sufficiently important that he does that which he has not done before.
The donors merit not just the Birkas Habayis. Maran shlit”a instructed to continue in the same way as five years ago: Each donor who signs up will merit to be inscribed - he and his whole family, in the book of tzedakah, the book of Giborim. These books rest on the table of Maran shlit”a in the room where he learns, and every Friday, as well as other available times, he opens the books, sees the precious names of his strong ones - who support Kupat Ha’ir, and davens for whomever is written therein.
This tzedakah isn’t only for sustaining the lives of the poor; it also sustains the lives of the donors. It isn’t the story of “other people”- it’s a story that belongs to you and me. Because before it saves the poor person, it shields and protects you.