By Rabbi Jeffrey M. Arnowitz
Since my installation and the siyyum (culmination ceremony) for the 613 Mitzvot Campaign on December 8, I keep thinking of one particular teaching from the Mishnah: “The reward for a mitzvah is a mitzvah” (Pirkei Avot 4:2). I am so pleased by the results of the campaign. In three months, we didn’t just achieve our goal of doing and reporting 613 mitzvot, we blew past that goal. We reached 954 mitzvot before we were done, involving hundreds and hundreds of people. The truth is, the success of the campaign isn’t so much about the numbers. After all, reported or not our community actually did thousands of mitzvot over those three months. For example, just morning and evening minyan attendance netted us close to 1500 mitzvot!
The truth of the 613 Mitzvot Campaign wasn’t the number, although it is always good to have a reminder that there are 613 Mitzvot in the Torah. The campaign was actually about the thought experiment of the counting, of being mindful of doing an action specifically because it is a mitzvah. The difference between simply doing something good and doing a mitzvah is mindfulness. Being mindful that the good act is a mitzvah accomplishes more than just a good deed. It also connects you to something bigger, to God, the One who gave us the mitzvah.
So, a mitzvah is really a way to connect to God, and the mitzvah campaign did something even more. It allowed those same mitzvot to connect us together as a congregation participating in the campaign. And maybe most beautiful for my purpose, since I brought you the campaign, it connected me to you as rabbi and congregation. What a perfect way to celebrate an installation!
The campaign is now over, but the project continues. After all, the reward for a mitzvah is another mitzvah. We still have work to do, and doing that work together is the real payoff for all the work of the campaign. I hope you will collect your reward by continuing to connect with me and with your WJC family through mitzvot. There are a plethora of ways to do that here, through ritual observance, committees like SOJAC who were so supportive of the campaign, and maybe through some great idea you have that we haven’t thought of yet— come see me and let’s talk it over. You bring a great mitzvah idea to WJC and I can help facilitate it in whatever way seems appropriate. I am looking forward to sharing the rewards of more mitzvot with you soon, and in years to come.