While preparing for Sophie’s 6th birthday, our home was on the market and we had recently emptied it out in order to show it. I realized, in contemplation of Sophie’s birthday party, that we would get inundated with a bunch of gifts, most of which Sophie would open, play with once, and then leave somewhere in our now neat and empty home.
So I approached Sophie about the idea of getting a few nice gifts from immediate family and close family friends, but perhaps asking her girlfriends who would be attending her party to bring gifts for donation. Somewhat to my surprise, Sophie thought this was a great idea. We discussed together what Sophie might want to do for this mitzvah project. She was well aware that in my congregation at the time, there was a food pantry. Many people came to the Temple regularly for food, but they still needed help to purchase fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy.
So when Sophie’s 7th birthday came around, and I asked her if she wanted to do another mitzvah instead of receiving gifts from her friends, she immediately said yes, and she was excited to do so. We had since moved to Long Island, so we needed to do some research as to where she wanted to make a donation. She chose to help people at a nearby shelter. We reached out to the shelter, asked them what kind of donations would be most helpful, and we were set. This time, we asked Sophie’s friends to bring gift cards to local grocery stores, drug stores, all-purpose stores and gas stations, in lieu of presents.
Once again, people were most generous, and we collected nearly $400 in gift cards. Sophie wanted to come with me to the shelter, to see what it was like and personally deliver her box of gift cards. The volunteer coordinator at the INN (Interfaith Nutrition Network) was fantastic. She took Sophie and I on a tour of their facilities, and gave Sophie all kinds of information about what the INN does for the community. She even sent Sophie her first official thank you note for the donations, which Sophie proudly shared with many.
I am certain that Sophie will continue to do Birthday Mitzvot each and every year, but she and I discussed how incredible it would be if others might do the same. Imagine how many food pantries could receive more donations; how many shelters might get extra help; how many hospitals might have a few more happy children. Most importantly, imagine how many boys and girls, men and women, might feel good about what they have done to help others who are less fortunate, and to make the world a slightly better place.
Sophie and I invite you to the mitzvah challenge: mitzvah goreret mitzvah – one mitzvah truly has the potential to cause another mitzvah, so share your mitzvah with others, and spread the desire to give.
Rabbi Debbie Bravo