I learned of an impressive mitzvah last week.
It was a tough funeral, a tragic loss of a relatively young man who fought difficult challenges for a long time and left a grieving family, including teenage children.
But the community came out to support the family.
I suppose one of the classic things we Jews do when words just can’t answer these moments is to bring food.
It’s not only a way that we can feel like we’re, in some small measure, helping, but it’s especially important at shocking and tragic times because it’s easy to forget to feed yourself when you’re preoccupied with all the arrangements and minutiae we never expected to have to deal with.
Yes, it makes sense, but sometimes the amount of food the community prepares and delivers can be overwhelming.
Enter, the Shiva Freezer.
I learned about it just this week as the family described it to me. They expressed to someone that they were afraid they couldn’t handle all the food people were bringing, so that person told them about the Shiva Freezer.
Shiva is the traditional, seven-day period of mourning we observe following a death and during that time, we often host the community in our home for memorial services. Most families in our community don’t observe a full, seven-day shiva period, but the food is still helpful and welcome.
Some years ago, during the aftermath of another tragic loss, our community purchased and delivered a freezer to the family going through that difficult time so that they could handle all the food coming in. I believe Hadassah took the lead in providing the freezer… Thanks!
Today, the freezer is delivered to any family who, unfortunately, may find themselves in need.
That’s a mitzvah.
...and for those readers not familiar with the Hebrew term mitzvah, it literally means ‘commandment’ though we often think of it as a ‘good deed.’ The difference, from the traditional Jewish perspective, is that it’s not a matter of doing something nice if we feel like it. A mitzvah is something God and our Tradition command us to do. While most of us don’t feel pressured by this ‘command,’ I would say, from our perspective that the mitzvah describes what we ‘just do’… It’s just what we do.
...and here in Fresno, apparently, providing the Shiva Freezer, is just what we do.
What a great mitzvah.