Abby Gore (teen, madricha/teaching assistant):
Mitzvah Day at Or Ami provides a unique opportunity to positively impact the life of a child I do not know. There are many ways to participate in this event: bringing in items to stuff the duffel bags with, helping assemble the bags, or facilitating the assembly line to fill the bags. Each action is fulfilling and eye opening, as the entire community comes together for a single cause. While going through the assembly line to select items to fill the comfort bag with, we get to choose fun activity books, comforting stuffed animals, and cool school supplies. This hand-packed comfort bag, in addition to a personalized note and pillowcase, will be delivered to foster child, in dire need of comfort and items to call his or her own. As much fun as it is to participate in the event, it is even more fulfilling to know that the bags packed within the walls of Congregation Or Ami will go out into the community to help kids in need.
When I was in elementary school and my family participated in the Mishpacha family alternative learning program, one of the most unforgettable lessons revolved around tikkun olam (repairing the world), and specifically Mitzvah Day. We learned about Rabbi Moses Maimonides’ Ladder of Tzedakah (charitable giving), which states the levels of giving, from least to most holy. We learn that one of the holiest ways to give is to do so anonymously, so that neither the giver or receiver know the identity of the other. This step is holy because it isolates the action of giving from factors that society believes to be important, such as our ages, social statuses and personal stories. It captures the integrity of giving and demonstrates that people give because it is the right thing to do, not just for recognition. Also, it ensures that those who receive do not feel guilty or ashamed.
This notion of helping others anonymously is the heart of the work we do at Mitzvah Day. All we know when assembling the bags is that they will eventually reach a foster child who is most likely in a state of fear and confusion. The child will not know who made this special bag for him/her, and we will not know the child who receives it. Through doing this mitzvah, we will know that our lovingly packed bags will comfort a foster child, and they will know that someone in the community cares about them. This is a holy mitzvah because it depends on us knowing that this is the right thing to do and others depend on us. Mitzvah Day impacts both ourselves as individuals and the children who will benefit from them. We all receive a lesson on the importance of giving.