Image: Hands touching. Photo by Andreas/Pixabay.
.מצווה גוררת מצווה; עברה גוררת עברה
A sacred duty leads to another sacred duty; a sin leads to another sin. – Avot 4:2
I had a great workout this morning; I felt good. I called my friend Jake, who is laid up, and asked him if he needed anything. He said he needed some fruit, but he didn’t want to be any trouble. “No trouble!” I said, and got some apples and oranges. When I got to his house, his wife Susan was out front. They know my knees are creaky, too, and she didn’t want me to have to climb the stairs. I gave her the fruit, gave her a hug, sent my love to Jake, and came home happy, all fired up for work.
I tell you this little story because it’s a very important one right now. As the sages tell us, “Mitzvah goreret mitzvah” – a good deed leads to another good deed. When we do a mitzvah (care for our bodies) we are energized to do another mitzvah (visit the sick). The second mitzvah leads to another (I’m now energized for work, which is teaching, another mitzvah.) So goodness multiplies in the world, all beginning with one mitzvah.
Does it always work? Yes, although we have to be open to the possibilities. Let’s say I woke up this morning feeling so bad that a workout wasn’t possible (it happens.) So then I should ask myself, OK, what mitzvah am I up for? Let’s say I feel really bad that day; super creaky with arthritis and pain. I can still pray, and that’s a mitzvah. When I pray, maybe it opens my heart. I have a beautiful idea for a blog post, or a lesson, or I remember I need to call Jake to ask how he’s doing. One mitzvah leads to another, and they carry me out of myself, out of the body that is too creaky to feel anything but pain.
I call this way of living, “Living on the Mitzvah Plan,” and I’ve written about it before. I’m writing about it today because the secret power of many mitzvot is that they carry us out of ourselves, either by connecting us to the Divine or by connecting us to another human being (who is made in the image of the Divine!)
Now we are living in a difficult time. Things on the news are deeply upsetting to some of us. It would be easy to fall into averot [sins]: calling people names, living without care for our bodies, neglecting people who need us, being mean to people and animals. The more averot we do, the worse we feel, and we do more and more of them! The whole world will fill with pain and sadness.
Want to feel better? Do a mitzvah!
If you are having trouble thinking of a mitzvah to do, try this one:
I wrote before about the women of Steps to Success. Their fundraiser only runs to the 31st of January. If you use this link to make even a small donation, it will be a great mitzvah (even according to Maimonides!) and it will make life much better for a person who is currently living a very hard life. It will help her lift herself and her children to independence. You will help to transform life for not only a woman in need, but for the generations after her!
And there will be another, more immediate mitzvah: I would like to give all donors an hour of study via Skype or in person. Mitzvah goreret mitzvah: one sacred duty leads to another.
Who knows where the goodness will lead?
My thanks to Paul and Serach, to Linda, and to Helen, all of whom have contributed to Steps to Success! Paul and Serach, I do not have your contact information. Please use the contact form on the right hand part of your screen to get in touch with me – I want to thank you!
4 thoughts on “Multiplying Goodness”
Is there a book that gives suggestions for mitzvot? Obviously there’s the Torah but I wanted to know if there was something like what you just wrote about that I can use as a guide.
Deborah, here is a short article I wrote for that purpose: “Can You Name 50 Mitzvot?” https://coffeeshoprabbi.com/2014/06/17/can-you-name-50-mitzvot/
Thanks for asking!
What a wonderful phrase to stimulate goodness at the beginning of each day, “Mitzvah goreret mitzvah.” I’m going to use it! Love it! You just did another MITZVAH Rabbi Ruth. Thank you. :}
The song is fun, too – check out the YouTube video at the bottom of the page!