We fast on Yom Kippur to allow us time to concentrate on the important tasks at hand: t’shuvah (repentance), t’fillah (prayer), and tzedakah (philanthropy and charity). We apologize to those we have wronged, and we vow to not repeat our sins. We take the day off from work to attend services and pray. At Temple Chai, we feed the hungry by participating in the annual High Holy Days Food Drive. We do not pick and choose which of these three tasks to engage each year, rather it is important for us to recognize that each task is intimately connected. I was moved by a passage in Preparing your Heart for the High Holy Days (Olitzky and Sabath) that reads:
“If you have committed any misdeeds, then do many mitzvot to match them." [Leviticus Rabbah 21:1].
Transforming misdeeds into mitzvot is one of the most amazing effects of t’shuvah. Even more wondrous is the transformation of the one who committed the wrongdoing in the first place. As human beings, we invariably struggle and sin. Then we have to work hard at forgiveness. But we can and do change, evolving into better people. Had we not sinned in the first place, perhaps we would not now be ready to do t’shuvah…Performing mitzvot can help us to heal. Not only do mitzvot rebuild relationships between individuals and God, but they also repair broken relationships between people. They provide us with divine instructions for holy living.
Where and how we begin doing mitzvot does not matter. What matters is that we begin now. This week. Before Yom Kippur. We can involve our friends and members of our family. We can teach others (especially our children if we have them) by doing mitzvot rather than by just talking about them. Doing mitzvot with others often brings people together in ways we can never anticipate nor duplicate. And through our efforts we can change the world, one redeeming act at a time. As we pray during this season, t’shuvah, t’fillah, and tzedakah indeed can thwart the severity of the decree. We need not worry about everything. We can leave that to God. There are plenty of little things broken in the world. All we have to do is pick one of them and begin to fix it.”
How are you incorporating tzedakah into your world this season? What one thing are you doing to fix the world?
Associate Executive Director