One of the great gifts of Judaism is the belief in action. Beginning with Moses bringing down the Torah, we all said, “WE WILL DO…!!” There are reminders from all the sages throughout the ages that we must not just believe but act. Often we look at the many rituals of Jewish life and question all the details but those rituals have the same goal — DO SOMETHING! A famous Talmudic argument was the discussion on whether it is more important to study or to do. The discussion is a great one to have but the final answer for the rabbis was mixed: Study is important because it leads to action! Ideally this would always happen and we wonder whether it is true. This past year with all its many challenges led many to action. Please remember this from Pirke Avot 2:21: “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Every act causes a ripple and who knows where that may lead? One of my favorite texts (yes, I have a lot of favorites!) comes from the Book of Esther 4:14: “Who knows, perhaps it was for a time such as this that you reached your position of privilege?”
Many people have a cause and a plan — there are so many ways we can do something and make a difference. There is much to be done and we each have our passions — all we must do is something! The challenge is usually what to do and what are the steps to take. I discovered a new tool that can help each of us and our families to do the good works we want to do, and the best part is that it is an app! Go to tzedekbox.org and learn more. Here is the idea:
The concept: The Hebrew words tzedakah and tzedek come from the same tz-d-k root: righteousness. Tzedakah tries to address an immediate need of the vulnerable. Tzedek seeks to tackle the root of the issue. Both are necessary.
In a tzedakah box, we put coins. In a Tzedek Box, we put slips of paper on which we’ve written our most recent contributions to justice (“I called my senator,” “I sent postcards to potential voters”) and our feelings and thoughts about it (“I need to get my sister to do this, too”). Once a year (on Pesach Sheni, a month after Passover), we open our boxes and reflect collectively on the work we’ve done and the work still to do.
A Tzedek Box prompts us to pause and reflect. A Tzedek Box provides sacred accountability. A Tzedek Box helps us ask the Eternal for partnership in the work of repairing the world.
The app: Designed for American Jews and their allies, the Tzedek Box app:
• Alerts you to timely news and action opportunities in the world of Jewish justice work
• Serves as an interactive journal for your reflections after engaging in acts of advocacy, activism and civic change
• Enables you to form or join “tribes” to get involved in justice work with others
• Includes notifications to activate your justice actions and reflections
• Offers an annual “cheshbon tzedek,” a personalized accounting of your year
The Tzedek Box website adds, “For our Opportunities section, we are currently aggregating actions from the partners of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable. We hope that this introduction to these organizations inspires your deeper engagement with them. We aspire to showcase more local events over time.”
The app was built by Edon Valdman (Valdman Works) and funded by a grant from the Be Wise Fellowship at Hebrew Union College.
So now I have passed on a tool that might work for you and your family. You don’t need a fancy app although it is fun and interactive. A simple box with a hole in the top to put money is enough — then you and your family need to decide where and what to support. You can also put in a paper note/reminder of the commitment you are making. And finally, the Tzedek Box organization gives us a blessing on their page to talk or write about how you felt or what you learned in this act of making the world a better place:
Baruch atah Hashem, Eloheinu melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu lirdof tzedek. We praise You, Eternal One, Sovereign of the universe, who calls us to holiness through mitzvot, commanding us to pursue tzedek/justice.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.