As we approach the High Holy Days, I have been humming a song that I learned at Jewish summer camp. The text of the song is from Pirke Avot, Ethics of the Fathers and it goes like this: “Mitzvah goreret Mitzvah…Averah goreret Averah” One mitzvah will bring another mitzvah, one transgression will bring another transgression.”
How many times in the past year did our intentions to become a more active part of the community fall by the wayside? How many opportunities did we miss this past year to volunteer, to perform mitzvot? Since moving here in January, I wanted to be part of a community that lived the words of this teaching; mitzvah goreret mitzvah.
This spring, our congregation, Temple Beth David, decided to embark on a mission “Operation Into the Midst”, in an effort to raise funds for those who were affected in the double tornado disaster in Oklahoma. The idea for TBD’s Operation Into the Midst began after reading parshat Korah, the week of disasters in Oklahoma. The Torah tells us that Moses ordered Aaron to run “Into the Midst” of the congregation where a plague had begun among the people. Aaron then stood between the dead and the living until the plague ended. (Numbers 17:12)
From this we learn how important and how necessary it is for us to be active participants in helping in crises. Our TBD volunteers called all of our congregants for donations and we decided to donate our funds to Nechama, a Jewish disaster relief organization that literally takes its vans and travels into the midst of national disasters. Nechama was at the scene in Oklahoma, helping those who were completely devastated.
Although Nechama had finished their relief aid in Oklahoma, they asked us if we would be willing to come and volunteer on Long Island where they are stationed for a year and half as they assist in relief efforts from the disaster that Hurricane Sandy left behind in October 2012. We loaded up a car, and drove to Long Island where we helped rebuild a house that had been almost completely destroyed in the hurricane. What started as a relief effort for Oklahoma led us to a awareness of others who are still in need of assistance. One mitzvah will bring another mitzvah
As we usher in 5774, may we all make the time in our lives for helping those in need again and again. May we heed God’s words through Moses, to run “into the midst” to ease the suffering of others. Shana Tovah
Rabbi Rachel Smookler