Mitzvah of the Week

This new Jewish year of 5775 is our year of personal and community engagement in doing mitzvot, commandments. In other words, this is Congregation Emeth’s Year of Living Jewishly.

What does it mean to “live Jewishly”?  The answer is found in Torah, our contract with God. Under the terms of the contract, we are told to behave in an ethical, moral way, to interact with others in a way that acknowledges that they, that every one of us, were created in the image of God.

I will guide you in your steps toward Jewish living.  In my weekly message in HaMadrich, I will share a mitzvah of the week, teaching you the background of the mitzvah, where it is found in Torah, and give you examples of how you might perform the mitzvah. You can do this as a family or with a few friends, or by yourself.  Please keep a journal of your experiences.  Let’s share our mitzvah journey together; just leave a comment below to post your experiences online.

Here’s our first Mitzvah of the Week*:


Organize and assist in providing shelter and nourishing meals for those in need. (Isaiah 58:7)

The Haftarah (message from Prophets) on Yom Kippur, challenged us to consider the real purpose of fasting and included these lines: “Is this the fast that I have chosen?…Surely it is to share your bread with the hungry, and to bring the homeless poor into your house…” (58:7)

This is the perfect mitzvah for the week of Sukkot, a time for celebrating the successful harvest.  We sit in our temporary shelters and celebrate God’s grace, thankful that we have permanent shelters and enough food to nourish ourselves. But this holiday reminds us of our obligation to the needy who don’t have sufficient food and who don’t have a permanent roof. In America in 2013, the official poverty rate was 14.5 percent!

This year, the response to our annual High Holiday food drive was much less than usual. This mitzvah card is a reminder that it’s not too late.  Fill a bag of non perishable food items and bring it to the temple any day of Sukkot, especially when you come to our Pizza in the Hut this Friday evening.

What else can you do to fulfill the mitzvah?  Go back and read the mitzvah card again.  I look forward to hearing your responses!

May you have a week of great joy, celebrating Sukkot!

Chag Sameach, happy Sukkot holiday!

Rabbi Debbie Israel

*The “mitzvah card” comes from the packet of Mitzvah Cards, produced by Reclaiming Judaism (