A Mitzvah is the ultimate expression of how Judaism views religion. It’s not a specific time, place, or with a specific thing, when or where or with which one has a relationship with G-d. from Rabbi Dov Schochet
Sunday was Mitzvah Day in Northern Arizona, so proclaimed by Yavapai and Coconino counties as well as the City of Sedona where it was founded last year by Rabbi Alicia Magal – who lives walking distance from me – and Barbara Litrell, president of Keep Sedona Beautiful.
It was estimated over 300 participated, not all from our local town-opolis, but if they were, that would represent 2% of our Greater Sedona Area population of 13,000. That’s huge.
The team I was on all said, “We’ll do whatever needs to be done.” We were new to this. Thus assigned to wash windows and sliding doors for a low income project for elderly and disabled humanity in Cottonwood, Arizona. In about two hours, we washed approximately 100 windows or doors each.
No one I was with loved washing windows. Some of us hire professional window washers for our own windows. Our “good deed,” – to those of us who washed windows – included not picking something we loved to do. Not that any deliberately picked something we hated. But petting and combing a couple humane society cats for an hour isn’t the same running from building to building addressing the outsides of soiled windows not washed since this time last year.
Somehow this strange word miztvah became associated in my mind more than a decade ago with “doing a good deed that cannot be repaid.” Perhaps that was supposed to apply only to the deed at a Jewish funeral of crumbling a clod of dirt over an open grave. That person being sent away will not thank you.
I didn’t get why it was such a big deal to get in the line to crumble the dirt, letting it trickle down to the highly-varnished oak casket below. It seemed like protocol, and a very small act that was part of the deceased’s religion. It hardly left my hands dirty. “Cannot be repaid,” Ben’s words repeated in my head.
Still, I think of Mitzvah as the good deed that cannot be repaid. It doesn’t need to be connected to fun, or fellowship, though it may be. It doesn’t need to be connected to enjoyment, though it might. For me, it will probably always mean “pay it forward,” for you cannot repay me now.
I did accept a grapefruit from a gentleman. I love grapefruit, and those I’ve purchased lately haven’t been good. This one looked delicious. But that isn’t why I took it. I took it because the man needed to give it. So I accepted it as enthusiastically as I washed his sliding patio doors and windows. He needed to feel visible, important, part of commerce, perhaps even manly.
Like the other gentleman sitting in his porch rocker while I cleaned. I reached to shake his hand when I was finished. He refused. Until he could stand up – a difficulty that took a minute or two.
Oh no. Never shake the hand of a lady unless you stand. Maybe I’ll even get a hug.
I teased, “Oh you may not!” But I threw my arms around him before taking his right hand. I don’t like hugging strangers. I did it for him. And me. Because I needed to humble myself to his hand, his germs, his smells, his hug, his body. So it was for me. And it was good.
Do you write the thing no one will read…but you? Do you write when you will be misedited and misquoted? What do you write when you know a rejection letter will follow?
Must you get your hands dirty to speak your truth, from your heart? Do the uncomfortable. Ring doorbells and announce to partially present people that today is free window washing day, if they don’t mind please, thank you very much.
What is the good deed you do for yourself? Do you write when you’re too busy? Do you pour out your soul when you must write articles for business publications? Where do you closet your soul? Where do you comfort it, let it speak?
Wash your windows. Take a new view. Like the cat that stretched behind a newly-polished glass patio door and stepped forward, to join me on the porch before realizing the door was still closed but the view was better.
Perform a mitzvah for your soul. Do a good deed that reconnects you to your root. Like we used to say in religious school, at the end of each day. Mrs. Applegate would announce, “And now the Mitzvah.”
May the Lord watch
between me and thee
while we are absent
one from another.
What sustains your writing ‘reconnection,’ your absent part from your present part?