Traditionally, the word ‘Mitzvah’ has meant ‘commandment’, but as years have gone by, this translation has progressed into meaning ‘good deed’ or ‘charitable act’. It is through this idea that ‘Mitzvah Day’ has come about, a day where Jews around the UK participate in volunteering and doing something completely selfless.
For the Jews here at Durham Jewish Society, we decided to spend the day helping out at Old Durham Gardens. Kitted out in my hoodie, leggings and monstrously dirty trainers, I made my way out of the hustle and bustle of the town center and into a landscape of mottled greens and hues of autumnal colours.
With shovel in one hand and fork in the other, my designated patch of grass soon started to shape its way into something which definitely could have appeared on the Chelsea Flower Show. With old Taylor Swift songs playing on a speaker precariously balanced on some twigs, a simple act of gardening turned into a mighty fine karaoke session.
As mud streaked its way down my face, and while my legs started to ache, I looked around and smiled. It can be so easy to be consumed in one’s own thoughts and activities daily, that doing something which does not relate to our studies or own social life can seem somewhat alien.
Perhaps, we should not simply resign ourselves just one day of doing charitable acts. Mitzvah Day has shown me that it is so simple to act selflessly, that it should be incorporated within our own lives daily.
A ‘mitvzah’ does not need to be something too time consuming. By simply helping out in one’s local community every week, or donating money to charity, we can help create a more selfless and loving environment to live in.
Yet, Mitzvah Day does not only concern charity, but also interfaith relations. Officially becoming a charity 10 years ago, Mitzvah Day acts as a way for faith groups to become integrated within society. In a political and social climate where faith groups are becoming more and more penalised for their faith (and especially with recent events in America heavily impacting the Jewish community), wearing those gardening gloves did not just help out a local garden center, but also allowed me to make a stand as a Jewish student.
To the reader of this article, try and think of one good deed you have completed today. If you cannot think of one, perhaps instead of thinking about it, go ahead and do it!