Whenever I meet with a bar or bat mitzvah student we discuss the meaning of becoming bar/bat mitzvah. While the term translates as “son of mitzvah” or “daughter of mitzvah,” what it means, according to Jewish tradition, is that the young person is now responsible for doing the mitzvot (plural of “mitzvah”). This naturally leads to the question, “What is a mitzvah?” Almost every student replies, “a good deed.” The truth is that this popular definition of a mitzvah is not completely correct. A mitzvah is a commandment, something we believe, or according to our tradition, God wants us to do. It includes both “good deeds,” i.e. actions which help others or make the world a better place (“tikkun olam”), and Jewish observances and traditions. Both types of mitzvot are essential to living a rich and meaningful Jewish life. Both connect us to God. Mitzvot are not merely good deeds, they are “God deeds.”
Here is one “good deed” mitzvah and one “Jewish observance” mitzvah that you can do through Temple Sinai this week:
- GOOD DEEDS DAY. On Sunday, March 9th the Jewish Community Relations Council and Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey is sponsoring “Good Deeds Day.” Temple Sinai is a host site for collecting non-perishable/unexpired food items to be donated to local food pantries. Everyone at Temple Sinai – members, parents, the ECC community – are encouraged to bring donations as soon as possible to the Temple, starting this weekend and ending on Sun. morning, March 9. On Good Deeds Day, March 9, you are invited to come to the Federation from 2-4 to sort and pack the food items. Representatives from some of the food pantries will come as well to meet and mingle with the volunteers. Anyone who would like to help sort and pack at JFNNJ (50 Eisenhower Drive, Paramus) on Good Deeds Day is encouraged to register at www.jfnnj.org/gooddeedsday. Space is limited and there are free t-shirts for the first 200 volunteers. Please contact Joy Kurland at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. This is a terrific Mitzvah project for any bar/bat mitzvah students looking for one.
- SHALACH MANOT. This is the Jewish practice of sending gifts to one another in conjunction with the festival of Purim. The origins of SHALACH MANOT go back all the way to the Megillah, the Book of Esther, when Mordechai declared the holiday of Purim as a time “of feasting and gladness – send food to one another, and give generously to the poor”. Our Temple Sisterhood has organized a system through which you can send Purim wishes and goodies to Temple Sinai members, ECC and Religious School families, and Temple Staff. You can also send an $8 donation to the “Purim Connection”, an organization that delivers Purim gifts to young soldiers on active duty in Israel and to Israeli children who are victims of terror and displacement. For more information, click here. Order forms are available at Temple, in the Sentry or click here for form. from Shavua Tov. If you have questions or would like to volunteer for bag "production" or delivery, contact Hilary Eth.
Doing mitzvot is at the heart of what it means to be a Jew. It makes being Jewish more than something that you are; it makes it something that you live. And when we live out who we are, we are truly fulfilled.