In Hebrew, the word, “mitzvah,” means commandment – something we are commanded to do by God. The written Jewish law, the Torah, contains 613 such commandments. Some relate to sacrifices that go back to the days of Solomon’s Temple, and so cannot be observed any longer. But many involve our everyday lives and so relate very much to us even today. In modern usage, the Hebrew term also applies to things we consider “good deeds.” Interesting, isn’t it, that the word is the same: commandments and good deeds go hand in hand.
I recently helped start a program in our synagogue called, “Mitzvah Meals,” in which congregants who are ill have meals brought to them by fellow congregants. This involves several meals a week, for periods that can last several weeks. It has been a fair amount of work to organize this, but I am struck by not only the willingness of people to be involved, but also their reaction when I ask them to help. Typically, it is they who thank me, rather than the other way around. I have lost count of the number of times I have begun to thank people for their voluntary work, only to be told: “I’m the one who wants to thank you for the chance to do this.”
The paradox of volunteering is that the more we give, the more we are given. Lifting others, we ourselves are lifted. Happiness — the sense of a life well lived — is born in the blessings we bestow on others. Bringing hope to someone else’s life brings meaning to our own.
If you have a comment or question about this blog entry, email Dr. Roffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Joel Roffman has spoken to many church, synagogue and support groups. His book, Coping with Adversity: Judaism’s response to illness and other life struggles is enjoyable, uplifting and informative. It is meant for people of all faiths and can be viewed at www.copingwithadversity.com. It is available at Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Amazon.com.