Frequently Asked Questions
As the WJC community strives toward meeting the goal of undertaking 612 new mitzvot by Rabbi Arnowitz’s Installation Ceremony on Dec. 8 – we will complete the 613th that day as a group – we asked him to answer a few questions that have been put to him and to the members of the committee overseeing the initiative.
Q: For the purposes of this project, what are some examples of what constitutes a mitzvah?
A: The goal of this project is that we all start approaching our lives with more of a “mitzvah mindset,” which is more important than the specifics. The 613 Mitzvot Committee is not in the business of grading mitzvot or giving them a thumbs up or thumbs down. So, if you are doing something good or Jewish, with “fulfilling a mitzvah” in mind, it counts. That means Jewish ritual activities like attending a service, baking a challah or lighting Shabbat candles; Jewish living activities like inviting guests for a Shabbat meal, giving up a non-kosher food or starting a Jewish at-home library; and good old-fashioned good deeds like giving tzedakah, volunteering or helping someone in need. The important thing is that you think about the mitzvah involved as you do it, then let the committee know!
Q: I’ve heard the Rabbi make reference to “new” mitzvot. If I do a mitzvah this fall that I have done in the past, should I still “log” it and send it in?
A: It absolutely counts! Doing a new mitzvah in honor of the project is great, but a mitzvah is a mitzvah – if you take the time to contribute that mitzvah to the 613 Mitzvot Campaign, then your awareness is sufficient to count that mitzvah!
Q: If I have a specific question about my mitzvah, whom should I ask – and how?
A: You should not hesitate to ask me, either by emailing me at email@example.com or calling me at the office.
Q: Why are the Rabbi and mitzvah committee chairs asking us to send in photos as part of reporting our mitzvot? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of a mitzvah, drawing so much attention to it?
A: While there is nothing that says a mitzvah has to be anonymous to be a mitzvah, you are right that humility and anonymity are important Jewish values when it comes to doing mitzvot. But it is also a value to encourage others to do mitzvot and to do so by example. So, by being part of the project, you will hopefully inspire others to take part too – and that’s a mitzvah! Still, if you prefer not to leave a picture of even your name, we will count your mitzvah anonymously.
Q: Are there a few mitzvot, in particular, that have caught your attention or made you smile?
A: Oh there are just so many! People have engaged in spontaneous acts of kindness like sharing a newspaper with a homeless person or buying a chair for the guard in the parking lot of the local bank, and others that took some planning and forethought, like cooking meals for those in need and visiting elderly neighbors. The one that melted our hearts was the ECC student who came in to tell us she’d sold some of her toys so she could donate the proceeds to tzedakah. She brought us the tzedakah box and said, “Here.” Just beautiful!
Q: Have any mitzvot surprised you?
A: The most surprising was definitely the college student who took his new dishes to be dipped in the mikveh. That’s a mitzvah I’m sure many of us don’t even know is a thing!
Q: How many mitzvot have been reported in to WJC thus far?
A: As of the end of November 10 I am pleased to share that 481 mitzvot have been submitted.
Q: Can you remind me again how to report my mitzvah?
A: There are cards for reporting a mitzvah in the Review, and on both floors of the synagogue, with boxes nearby for leaving them when they’re all filled in. You can also find an online form to submit your mitzvot at http://www.wjcenter.org/613mitzvot/
Q: How will this initiative culminate?
A: We hope that we will have 612 mitzvot tallied by my installation on Sunday morning December 8. During the installation ceremony, we will join together in the 613th mitzvah and mark the moment with a special finishing ceremony called a siyyum. Then it’s food and dancing to celebrate the installation and our monumental, communal accomplishment.