Friday, May 27, 2016
Shalom Shaarei Kodesh,
There is a famous teaching in the Jewish tradition (the Ethics of Our Fathers 4:2): "Mitzvah Gorreret Mitzvah, Aveirah Gorreret Aveirah" "One mitzvah leads to another mitzvah and one transgression generates another." The recently published Siddur Lev Shalem, the Rabbinical Assembly's new siddur for the Conservative movement (please contact me if you would like to purchase a copy at a discount), comments on this very important teaching: "The Torah's commandments are different gateways into human vitality, which are mapped out and placed at students' disposal so that they might go through them and grow. Enter each gateway that opens for you. Flee from sin, because an aveirah pushes a person away from the open gateways toward impassable walls. Mitzvah and aveirah are two instructors in spiritual and moral topography, teaching one to identify openings and walls. Choose an open gateway, and distance yourself from the walls. Pursue and feel, for a student should in constant motion. Our lives are constant journeys, and sin is when we stop journeying and seek to live within secure walls - Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum."
This Shabbat marks the culmination of yet another cohort of Bnai Mitzvah students. After this weekend, ten young adults are taking or have already taken their first steps into Jewish adulthood as part of our holy community. I am so proud of the program we have shaped over the last number of years, from our family education bnai mitzvah course, to the hard work of our bnai mitzvah tutor, Cantor Anita Shubert, to the Torah that our bnai mitzvah students share with the community, to the Mitzvah Journey that they take. The Mitzvah Journey is a special program where our bnai mitzvah students perform 13 mitzvoth in three categories: mitzvoth between themselves and God, between themselves and the Jewish community, and between them and the rest of the world. This Shabbat, Emmett and Liora took this concept to the next level: they asked others to join them along their mitzvah journey to perform 180 mitzvoth! This initiative, called Cousins Mitzvah, can be found on Facebook. It's wonderful to see people posting the mitzvoth they have performed and seeing the concept of mitzvah gorreret mitzvah come alive! I wrote about a similar concept over the high holidays - looking at your Jewish life as if you had a spiritual Fitbit, counting the mitzvoth you perform on a daily basis.
We are approaching the summer which is vacation time for most, but there are no vacations from the mitzvoth we can perform in the world. I urge you all to do the following: "Choose an open gateway, and distance yourself from the walls. Pursue and feel, for a student should in constant motion. Our lives are constant journeys, and sin is when we stop journeying and seek to live within secure walls."
Let us continue journeying TOGETHER on a path to holiness.
Rabbi David Baum