Today is December 5, 2022 /
Past Kol Ha’Emek Mitzvah projects
Collected books and school supplies for students in low-income schools (Herron)
Pasted the mishebeirach in the back of all siddurim (Cook, Woloshin & Chaimberg)
Made a children’s version of the Amidah (Hoffer)
Recorded an album of Jewish music, sold copies, and gave proceeds to Kol Ha’Emek (Herron)
Held weekly Zoom chats with an elderly woman during COVID (Bagatel)
Assembled toiletry kits for kids on the Mexican border (Yukica)
Assembled and handed out personal hygiene kits for homeless folks in NYC (Hirschman)
Was on call to meet newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetics (Jacobs)
Raised money for a camp for kids whose parents had died (a camp his cousins had attended) (Green)
Taught a free Zoom class for kids to learn video techniques (Green)
Made and sold ice cream to raise money for endangered species (Rosenbloom)
Organized a 5K to raise money for low income sports programs, with guidance from Positive Tracks (Sobel)
If your mitzvah project isn’t listed here and you’re willing to have it be added, please contact the education director.
Doing Good Together is an organization that helps children plan and execute service projects.
Other mitzvah project themes and ideas:
Shabbat Candles are all about bringing light (physical and spiritual) into your home. It’s also one of the mitzvahs given especially to women. Once you’ve learned how to light the Shabbat candles correctly and explored the deeper meaning, here are some ideas for creating your mitzvah project: Design and create your own Shabbat candlesticks out of clay, wood, or any other material you like. You can have the guests at your celebration make them too. Write a poem, story or song about light, and what it means to you. Print up copies so your guests can take it home with them. Create mini Shabbat candle sets for your guests to encourage them to do this mitzvah themselves every week.
Prayer: Choose a prayer that resonates with you. Discover the literal meaning, the spiritual implications and the place the prayer holds in the greater context of the services. Translate your research into a book, scrapbook or slideshow which you can share with the guests at your celebration.
Loving Your Fellow as Yourself (AKA chessed, kindness): This one of the most important mitzvahs in the Torah in fact, the great sage Hillel once famously said, “This is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary.” When it comes to kindness, the possibilities are endless. Here are a few suggestions: Do you have lots of patience? Are you a good listener? Half an hour of your time once or twice a week might make world of difference to someone in a local nursing home or hospital. If you want to make it bigger, engage your friends and classmates. Set up a roster so the residents get several visits a week. You will hear many wonderful stories during your visits –record some of them. Type them up and give them to the residents. Compile some of the moving ones into a booklet to distribute at your celebration. There are hundreds of organizations dedicated to helping others. Do some research, choose one that you like and look for ways to help them, either by volunteering your time, or by raising money to donate. Do you enjoy corresponding? Ask the organization to set you up with a pen-pal. Get to know the people you’re helping, and it will become so much more meaningful.
הדור פני זקן – Hiddur P’Nai Zaken – Honoring the Elderly
In Leviticus 19:32 we read, “You shall rise up before the aged and show deference to the old; you shall fear your God: I am the Eternal.” God is telling us that respect for the elderly – honor to those who came before us – is of the utmost importance. Had it not been for the accomplishments of the older generations among us, we would not be able to enjoy the progress we have in our own lives. The elderly members of our community helped to pave the way for us to continue to develop and grow. We must not forget that they were once like you and you should treat them the way you want to be treated in your days. As we read in the Talmud, “Even the old man who has forgotten his learning must be treated tenderly, for were not the broken tablets placed in the Ark of the Covenant side by side with the whole ones?”
מאכיל רעבים – Ma’achil R’evim – Feeding the Hungry
In the Torah, we read about certain restrictions on landowners to enable them to perform the mitzvah of feeding the hungry. “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field or gather gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick your vineyard bare or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger” (Leviticus 19:9-10). We learn from this that taking care of others and feeding those in need is an important concept in our tradition. We still practice this mitzvah today by preparing, sharing and sending food to the needy.
פקוח נפש – Pikuach Nefesh – Saving a Life
Jewish tradition teaches that preserving human life is considered the most important mitzvah. If there is a choice between one mitzvah and a mitzvah in which a life will be saved, the second is to prevail even if it means violating the other mitzvot. One human life is as important as another, and we are all created in the image of God. We are also taught that all Israel is responsible for one another. Therefore, we should participate in activities and support programs that help those whose lives are in danger.
בל תשחית – Bal Tashchit – Not Destroying
When God created the Earth, He commanded the first humans to “fill the Earth and master it.” We also read in Psalms, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that it holds, the world and its inhabitants.” From this we learn that we are merely the caretakers of the earth and all living creatures. We must protect the environment and animals. We are forbidden to waste, destroy needlessly and harm animals without cause.
צער בעלי חיים – Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim – Being Kind to Animals
We are commanded to do our part not only to protect, but also to promote the well being of our environment and animals. We are commanded to feed our animals before we eat and to take care of their needs before our own. We do this through a variety of activities from being cautious about waste, or giving of our time or money to organizations like the ASPCA or rescue shelters.
בקור חולים – Bikur Cholim – Visiting the Sick
Visiting the sick is an example of G’milut Chasadim, deeds of loving-kindness, which is derived from the Biblical verse “After the Eternal God shall you walk.” How do we walk in God’s ways? By visiting the sick just as God visited Abraham after his circumcision. The Talmud considers visiting the sick a duty that has no prescribed limitation. According to Rabbis, the purpose of visiting the sick is to cheer them up.
הכנסת אורחים – Hachnasat Orchim – Welcoming the Stranger/Hospitality
Providing hospitality to strangers is a tradition that has its roots in earliest biblical times. Abraham is the first person to perform this Mitzvah when he greets three visitors who approach his tent. Abraham prepares a meal for his visitors, runs to get them food and welcomes him into his home. Hachnasat Orchim is one of the mitzvot that is mentioned in the Obligations and, therefore, is considered very important.
הדור מצוה – Hiddur Mitzvah – the Celebration and Enhancement of a Mitzvah
Judaism teaches us that we should do mitzvot with joy and celebration. When we perform a mitzvah, it is not enough to just do it (although that will do if it is the only alternative); we need to do it with special kavanah – direction of heart. We use special bread, challah, on Shabbat to enhance the Shabbat table; we wear our finest clothes to services to enhance our Shabbat and holiday celebrations; we have beautiful ornaments on our Torah to illustrate the centrality and special place the Torah has in our lives. Like the King who is dressed in his “royal best”, so too is our Torah.
אל תפרוש מן הצבור – Al Tifrosh min Ha’tzibor – Do not separate yourself from the community (Pirke Avot 2:5)
According to the commentary, Hillel stresses the responsibility of each Jew to be part of his/her nation. Jews must form one great community, one complete unit, and must not be divided. A Jew must never be certain that he will not need the aid of others. Our rabbis taught: A society consists of individuals who are dependent on one another. The welfare of the individual is at the same time the welfare of the group. This is why he must not separate himself from his group and become an exception.