Some years ago, due to various reasons, our congregation discontinued the Sisterhood and Brotherhood. Both organizations brought people together and fostered a sense of community; they also made it possible to help each other through difficult times in life as well as to rejoice together. Although our dedicated volunteers have shifted their time and efforts to other important areas of our congregation, some of the needs those organizations used to address are currently unfulfilled.
Auxiliary organizations are based on the Jewish value of solidarity. The culture of service to others has a strong basis within the history of Jewish communal life. For instance, classic rabbinic texts underscore the importance of the mitzvah of bikur cholim (visiting the ill or suffering). All members of the community are obligated to engage in bikur cholim.
We read in the Talmud that when one of Rabbi Akivah's students was ailing no one would come to visit this person. Finally Rabbi Akivah himself went to the ill student's bedside and began to sweep and make some order. The student subsequently recovered and credited his recovery to Rabbi Akivah's visits. This tale reminds us of our power to bring wholeness, refu'at hanefesh (healing of the spirit) through our presence and our caring. Through the example of his actions Rabbi Akivah taught that reaching out to others in bad times is a mitzvah that we all must consider.
The caring presence and concrete assistance of a caring person can help heal another. It is also a wonderful way of engaging members of our congregation in mitzvot that bring holiness into each other’s lives. In order to honor this ancient tradition, our congregation is coming together again. In the next few months we will launch a new program focused on compassion and care. We are still working on the details, but it will include visiting the sick, delivering some meals, and providing support in times of sorrow as well as of simchah –happiness.
We want to be as effective as possible, but in order to do so, we need everyone’s involvement. I welcome your input. Please, share your thought in the comments below.
I am curious to know what would you like to see happen. What do you think our members need? How would you like to participate? Let us come together once again and create a stronger community.