Tikkun Olam…Repairing the World…one of the most important parts of Judaism is making our world a better place. In the before times (pre-COVID), our Kesher and Chalutzim campers would have Mitzvah Day outside of camp. Our oldest campers were taken into the community to do good for others. It was always a very impactful day, and our campers loved this time when they put the “village” first.
This summer, there would be no leaving camp. As the new Program Director, I worried about what this would mean for teaching our campers about kehillah, community. Would this mean that there was no way to do good for the community? Would this mean that tikkun olam would be put on hold? Absolutely not! We were going to bring Mitzvah Day to camp, and Mitzvah Mashehu was born.
Mitzvah Mashehu was a weekly program where the entire camp focused on one of our commandments, mitzvot, and did something that would benefit our community. We chose 3 mitzvot and 3 groups that these mitzvot would benefit.
The first mitzvah was caring for animals, tza’ar ba’alei Chayim (not harming animals). The organization we worked for was Bosley’s Place, Inc. Bosley’s Place is a nursery and sanctuary for neonatal and underage homeless and orphaned puppies (http://www.bosleysplace.com/). Our campers learned all about the organization, what they do, how they provide for the puppies, and what they need to make the organization function. We then created 53 no-sew fleece blankets with the units. Based on camper feedback, this was a favorite activity this summer.
Our second mitzvah was honoring those in our community. This Mitzvah Mashehu happened during Macabbiah and was nicknamed Mitzvah MACshehu. Because our theme was Avengers who are Superheroes, our MACshehu focused on our EVERYDAY heroes. We wrote thank you notes in units to a variety of everyday heroes. Some kids wrote to doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. Other campers wrote to police people, fire people, and mail people. Still others wrote to comedians, state representatives, and their friends’ parents. This activity brought light to how important it is to show kavod, respect, to heroes in our community.
Our final mitzvah mashehu of the session benefited The Sandwich Project. The campers learned about the mitzvah of Feeding the Hungry, maakhal revi’im. We learned about food insecurity and what that can look like. We also learned about The Sandwich Project and what they do. The Sandwich Project is an Atlanta-based grassroots effort that supports the efforts of CHRIS180, a non-profit organization that meets the needs of homeless and food insecure individuals and families where they are, by going deep into the communities in need. Additionally, The Sandwich Project also benefits Solidarity Sandy Springs, NFCC (North Fulton Community Charities), Mariposa, FreeFridge99, Sandy Springs Community Assistance Center, and Giving Grace. In order to help The Sandwich Project, our campers made beautiful, inspirational, and fun cards that will be distributed with every single sandwich that goes out. We were able to make 471 cards to send to The Sandwich Project (https://www.facebook.com/groups/783652755919659/).
I am so proud of our campers for being so open to learning about and working for the betterment of the community. One of the things we learned in Mitzvah MACshehu was a mystical story of Creation that our sages tell. The story goes that when the world was first formed, it was perfect. Then, something happened, causing the world to shatter, scattering sparks of Divine holiness around the world. It is our obligation to collect those sacred sparks by doing mitzvot and acts of tikkun olam. Everytime we do something to repair the world, we gather sparks together.
The campers did such a beautiful job of collecting those sparks by doing acts of kindness for others. I was moved by the campers’ willingness and love for others each week.