Today is the 9th day of the Omer, that is one week and two days. We are on the journey still, to Mt. Sinai. When we arrive at the 49th/50th day, we experience Matan Torah, receiving the gift of Torah.
For Jews, holiness is not spirituality based on sitting on a mountaintop, meditating or doing yoga (although I, and many other Jews, do both). Rather being kadosh – holy in Judaism is to act in ethical ways toward one another.
A big question on the mind of every 12-year-old at Congregation Or Ami is “What will I do for my mitzvah project?”
In Judaism, the completion of a mitzvah project as part of the process of becoming a bar or bat mitzvah symbolizes acceptance of the “mitzvah” or “duty” to actively work to engage in “tikkun olam” or “healing the world.”
Mitzvah projects can benefit children, the elderly, animals, the hungry, the environment, refugees, the poor, or any other group or cause that needs help.
Despite so many people and places needing healing in our world, finding a mitzvah project that fits the individual interests and abilities of each pre-teen can prove challenging. That’s why Congregation Or Ami hosted its inaugural Mitzvah Project Fair on April 4 and 6 during its Kesher learning program.
Or Ami teens who completed their mitzvah projects in the past year presented their volunteer projects to the younger children in the temple’s Religious School program. The presenters used posters and handouts and talked with curious first- through fifth-graders about their experiences. The younger children were amazed by the wide variety of projects.
Some of the projects were training a seeing eye dog, teaching inner city children about managing money, sending handmade notes to military personnel posted overseas, playing with disabled children, caring for orphaned animals, and collecting food for the hungry and basic supplies for the homeless.
Calabasas resident Rachel, a fourth-grader, said, “My mitzvah project can be helping animals, not only people.”
Agoura Hills resident Ryan, a first-grader, said, “I can do my mitzvah project in the park.”
“By doing a mitzvah project, you are being a super mensch,” (Yiddish for “a really good person”) said Oak Park resident Jonathan, a third-grader.
In addition to showing the younger children the many handson projects they can accomplish, the Mitzvah Project Fair showcased the accomplishments of the temple’s teen members.
“The Mitzvah Project Fair also provided an opportunity for our congregation to acknowledge the great pride we feel at the important work our teens are undertaking to ‘heal the world’ and to celebrate their acceptance of tikkun olam as a lifelong pursuit,” said Debby Pattiz, mitzvah project coordinator.
Organizations that are interested in helping children “heal the world” by providing pre-teens with bar/bat mitzvah volunteer projects should leave a message for Pattiz through the Temple. (This Mitzvah Project Fair article was written by Helayne Sharon, who resides in Agoura Hills.)
May these days trekking through the wilderness provide you with plenty of time to think about how you can both talk the talk and walk the walk … of kadosh – holiness.