Following on the heels of a successful but exhausting Mitzvah Day, we have introduced Sprucing up Sinai. Every Sunday from 9-noon, we turn our attention to the building’s physical needs, right now with a focus of weeding. I was hoping to open my message with some sage Jewish wisdom about weeding. To my chagrin, Googling, “Jews and weed” did not yield the kind of information I was seeking.*
Rabbi Sara and I have been out front weeding every weekend since Mitzvah Day. We have had a few members join us, but too few. The job is too big for one or two people alone. We know that not everyone can get down on their hands and knees and pull weeds, but fear not: we have many jobs around the building that need attention. There is something for everyone. And everyone’s participation is key. While one or two of us can make a small change, all of us together can make a big difference.
We are privileged to have such a wonderful facility. But we cannot continue to enjoy it if we do not take care of it. When we choose one day of service, after a year of neglect, our task is nearly impossible. Instead, we need to make it part of more regular practice. The collection of rabbinic wisdom known as Pirke Avot, suggests: “mitzvah goreret mitzvah” one mitzvah leads to another. Similarly, it cautions us that one misdeed or other bad act leads to another as well. Getting in the habit of helping out, of doing good, of coming together to support one another and the community, these all get easier each time we do them. And they become our habits, rather than something we must be cajoled or reminded to do.
While in so many ways, this is about the building, in others, it is not. Collaborative efforts are not just about pulling weeds or the physical appearance of our home. We live and worship in community because of what we can do together. When battling Amalek, as long as Moses held his hands up, we triumphed. But his hands grew heavy, “so they took a stone and put it under him and he rested on it, while Aaron and Chur, one on each side, supported his hands; thus his hands remained steady until the sun set.” (Exodus`7:12) Our battle against the weeds is far less dramatic, but other causes in our lives are more pressing. Practice of being in a community helps us take those on as well. And having others helps us do more, and they support us when we are weary. It is not just about the work but about the community. We need to come together not only to tackle the project, but to be together, to interact, and to create relationships that benefit us all. We also make connections that give us closeness that enables us to tackle any challenge, no matter how big, together.
*I may have found a topic for a future adult ed session.