By Laura Seymour
We continue our exploration of tikkun olam. The Hebrew word tikkun means to “fix” or “heal” something that is broken; olam means “world.”
K’lal Yisrael literally means “all the people of Israel.” The mitzvah is all about Jewish unity and solidarity — being responsible for all Jews no matter where they live or what they do.
Jewish tradition teaches that we should care for all people, even the stranger in our midst, but we must remember that Jews are a small part of the world’s population. Every Jew counts and what we do speaks on behalf of all Jews and the Jewish community.
Mitzvah hero of today’s world: Sandy Koufax
In October 1965, the Los Angeles Dodgers faced the Minnesota Twins in the World Series, but their best pitcher, Sandy Koufax, was not with them for Game 1. That game was on Yom Kippur, and Koufax was in synagogue.
Koufax never thought this decision would be controversial, but this simple decision made a powerful impression on a generation of American Jews. Koufax believed he belonged with his fellow Jews on the holiest day of the year instead of on the ballfield.
Writer Ze’ev Chafets reported that 20 years later, while doing research for a book, “I was told by hundreds of Jewish men across the United States that their most important Jewish memory was of Sandy sitting out the Series.”
Koufax ended up winning two games in the Series, including the decisive Game 7, and took most valuable player honors.
In our ancestor’s footsteps: Queen Esther
Many Jews in the Bible have performed the mitzvah of K’lal Yisrael, being responsible for all Jewish people. One of the most famous was Queen Esther, who risked her life to save the Jewish people. It was not an easy decision for Esther, but she knew that she was in the right place to do the right thing and save the Jews of Shushan.
When Mordechai came to her, she was frightened and yet she knew she was the one who had to take the risk for the lives of all Jews. We remember her because it takes courage to stand up for your people when your life is at stake.
The information for this summer’s weekly themes comes from “Jewish Heroes Jewish Values — Living Mitzvot in Today’s World” by Barry L. Schwartz published by Behrman House, Inc. in 1996.
Family talk time
- Talk about the different groups that you belong to. What does it mean to be a member of a group? How do you show you are a member? Are there some groups that anyone can join and some that only certain people can belong to?
- When you belong to a group, what are your responsibilities to that group. Do you have to do everything the group does? What if you want to leave the group? What if you want to change something about the group? What if someone wants to join or bring a friend?
- Being a part of the Jewish people is not like being in a club. How is it different and how is it the same? What does it mean that “all Jews are responsible for one another”? How do you show this?
Laura Seymour is director of youth and camping services at the Aaron Family JCC.