Pirkei Avot 4:2 teaches, “one mitzvah brings about another.”
As a teacher for Manhattan’s Central Synagogue, one of my regular tasks was to play the role of Aveirah Yelda (Transgression Girl) in our Religious School skits. Each week I would don my black cape and mask in order to battle the Mitzvah Mensch. Based on the teaching from Pirkei Avot 4:2, “mitzvah goreret mitzvah, aveirah goreret aveirah” (one good deed brings another good deed, one transgression brings another transgression) my colleague and I came up with humorous new ways to teach mitzvot and inspire sacred living for our students through our epic battles.
While I don’t have any immediate plans to reprise my villainous role here at CEEBJ, I do have an even better opportunity to teach and live out this principle this month. Our annual Mitzvah Day program is coming May 21. Now is your chance to make plans for the day, volunteer to help out, and get ready to participate in this amazing event.
Though we celebrate Mitzvah Day only once each year, its impact continues long after the day concludes. Many of the projects bring comfort to those who receive them again and again, many of our projects help to raise awareness about ongoing issues in our community, and hopefully everyone who participates enjoys the project and feels inspired to continue to find ways to make a difference. Most importantly, community participation and commitment to these activities models for our children that learning about and responding to the needs of those around us is an ongoing communal task. When we each participate in Mitzvah Day, we emphasize the literal translation of mitzvah, commandment. As Jews we are commanded to respond to the needs of our community, as a community.
This day of family fun and learning begins with a short t’filah service at 9:30 in the sanctuary for students, parents and community members, followed by on-site projects perfect for every age and interest. This part of the day is structured to provide a project for every religious school student and parent as well as anyone in our community who would like to participate. We’ll be working in our Salinsky Garden, making 2000 snack bags for Hunger Task force to distribute to children this summer, making gifts for hospital residents and home-bound members of community, and we’ll even make gifts for some of our four-legged friends. You’ll also have a chance to support important charities in our community through our Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry and community Glean Machine and a sale in our Gift Shop. Our morning culminates with a free lunch for everyone who has participated made possible by the generosity of Brotherhood.
The day then continues with special projects that your family may choose to sign up for. At 12:30 we’ll make a meal for Meta House and at 1pm we’ll visit Grand Avenue Club and deliver lunch.
But don’t feel limited by these projects! Though the official Mitzvah Day activities end early in the afternoon, this is the perfect time to gather your family and use your passions and skills to make an impact on our community. Volunteermilwaukee.org can help you find a project in the area that already exists and with a little creativity you and your family could create your own project! For tools, resources, or a little inspiration to help fill your day with as many mitzvot as you can fit in, we are here to help!
Rabbi Toba Strauss Schaller