Pirkei Avot, the traditional compilation of Hebrew ethical teachings, contains a well-known line attributed to Rabbi Tarfon about accomplishment: “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it (2:21).” The meaning of this line is that while it may not be possible to complete a given task in our lifetimes, this does not excuse us from working on it. Many people interpret this line to be a reference to tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of healing the world.
We may not be able to perfect everything in the world, but this does not mean we shouldn’t do what we can. Community members have dedicated their time to the practice of healing the world through the OFJCC’s Mitzvah Corps service and volunteer program. This year, many volunteers are taking Mitzvah Corps to a new level by participating in activities for the National Day of Service and Remembrance. This is an accessible way to continue to remember September 11 and honor those who served and those who were lost.
Hilary Weisfeld, a Mitzvah Corps participant and OFJCC board member, reflects on the importance of tikkun olam in her life.
“Tikkun Olam. A huge part of Judaism, of most religions, really. Repairing the world, doing mitzvot–good deeds–being grateful and giving back. My husband and I are as philanthropic as we can be; it’s so important to us to help others where and when we can. But how do we convey these same values to our children, now that they’re old enough to understand? How do we impart these tenets so that they become part of who our children are, not just what they do? My daughters are now 10 and 8 (or 10 and a half and 8 and a half, to be clear) and I’ve been struggling with this concept for a couple of years. Sure, we can tell them about the organizations to which we donate, but do those conversations make a significant impact?
“Enter the OFJCC. The Mitzvah Corps gives us that opportunity, the chance to show and teach our kids exactly what it means to be global citizens through a Jewish lens. Through the Mitzvah Corps, our children have come to understand the importance of helping, of doing, of giving back. From choices like cooking meals and serving them to homeless families at shelters, sending cards and packages to troops overseas, visiting the elderly and creating art and puzzles for sick children, our children have been learning the value of spending their time and energy doing something for others. We are so grateful for all that we have, and the OFJCC Mitzvah Corps has given our family the important opportunity to pay it forward time and time again, so that our actions have become not just the things we do, but a guiding principal in who we are.”
Hopefully, through tikkun olam, we become people who continue to make a difference in the world even if, in the end, we must pass the work along to the next generation.