RABBI JEFFREY ARNOWITZ
Most of us know the word ‘mitzvah’ (mitzvot in plural). You might translate it as ‘good deed’ or ‘commandment’ or ‘Jewish activity,’ but however you translate it, a mitzvah is something truly powerful. Part of the reason why is highlighted in the Mishnah below—one of my personal favorites. I am drawn to the lines, “for one mitzvah leads to another mitzvah” and “the reward for performing a mitzvah is another mitzvah.”
These statements are profound in how they address both the personal impact of mitzvot and their communal reach. When you are on the path of doing mitzvot, you are drawn further along the path. Why? Because you are connecting with something deep within yourself, something innate and sacred—your neshama (soul) that guides you on the path that God has set for you.
At the communal level, mitzvot have the power to connect us to each other in a potent, sacred way. Perhaps we inspire each other to do more to bring goodness into the world; perhaps in doing a mitzvah together we discover the reward of a bond created through our shared sacred experience.
I propose that a fair definition of ‘mitzvah’ would be “act of sacred connection”—with oneself, with a community and with God. That is why I want to start my tenure as Rabbi of WJC with a campaign for 613 communal mitzvot (613 is the traditional number of mitzvot found in the Torah). We will begin September 8 at our Congregational BBQ with a Project Ezra food drive for Jewish families who need Rosh HaShanah meals (page 10) and conclude December 8 at my installation ceremony.
I invite you to connect—with me, with each other, and with the Divine—by logging your mitzvot into our communal list. During these three months, we will offer mitzvah activities for all ages and feel free to log in ones you do on your own too. Watch for more about the 613 Mitzvot Campaign and how to log a mitzvah in the coming weeks.
We want everyone to be able to connect under the umbrella of this mitzvah campaign. When, together, we take the next step in WJC’s communal journey at my installation, I’d like us to also be united by our great accomplishment—our completion of 613 acts of connection—and as the Mishnah teaches, I look forward to these shared mitzvot leading to more mitzvot in our shared future.