Why is this day of good deeds different from all other mitzvah days?
We are a people who have felt commanded to do good, repair the world, and step up to our responsibilities every day for thousands of years. Yet there is a back-story as to why our community has joined with hundreds of thousands of Jews and their neighbors all over the world on what has been called International Good Deeds Day. If Good Deeds Day had a product label, it would proudly say Made in Israel!
Shari Arison is an American-born Israeli leader of a business and philanthropic global empire (world-wide advertising agencies, Carnival Cruise Line, and the Ruach Tova Philanthropic fund). In 2012 she was ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the world’s most powerful women, and one of the World’s Greenest Billionaires.
Shari increasingly felt physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted from a lifetime of fighting to succeed. She asked herself “Is that all there is? Is there something else I was meant to do?” One day she said to herself “I want to do good; I want to think good; I want to feel good!” She saw other Israelis wanting more out of life than simply surviving and taking from society. She heard people saying that if they only had time and some opportunity, they would give back to society. Shari Arison understood the limits that government has on making changes in a society. It was time to step up as a citizen.
She first asked herself- “What is my role? What can I offer to the world, given my specific skills, life experiences and through the platforms I attained?” Shari felt optimistic about her ability to make changes and influence others. Her plan was to create a framework for people to do good together, and be influenced and reinforced by seeing other people join in.
Through the philanthropic NGO called Ruach Tova (Spirit of Good), the first Good Deeds Day was held in Israel in 2007. 7,000 people participated in that first year. By 2014, 500,000 people in Israel alone took part. In 2012, MTV became a global sponsor and helped spread the word to various countries. Using TV, social media, and volunteer organizations, Good Deeds Day spread to 50 countries around the world. The Greater Washington community, coordinated by The Jewish Federation, is the single largest region outside of Israel to participate in Good Deeds Day.
Good Deeds Day has reached a critical mass in Israel, and its spread around the world may well be a modern illustration of Isaiah’s words, that Israel (the land and its people) can be a “light to the nations.” All too often, when Israel is on the news, it has to do with war. There is another side to Israel, both of her people and the government of the State. Good Deeds Day is just the latest and perhaps most accessible humanitarian export from Israel. It is a day on which we can look to Israel with pride as a light to nations, good global citizen and participate in widening the circle of goodness in the world.
- What are your “gifts” that you could share with others on Good Deeds Day? What needs in the community could you help with?
- You can always continue to do mitzvot and good deeds on your own at any time. What is special or important about having a day when thousands locally and hundreds of thousands in Israel and around the world are doing the same type of activity?
The Invisibility Complex – The Power of saying “hello”
A man who worked in a laboratory got stuck late one evening in a lab refrigerator. After shouting and shouting he realized that everyone had gone and was convinced that his body would freeze overnight. Suddenly, the building guard appeared and opened the door from the outside.
The man asked, “How did you know I was here?”
The guard said, “I did not know you’re here. I looked for you. ”
” You searched for me?!” The man replied in astonishment.
The guard replied: ” You are the only one who says hello to me each morning and goodbye each evening. When I didn’t see you leave, I decided to see what happened to you. I came to the lab, I heard you yelling, and I opened the door.”
- Who are the invisible people in our lives? Who could you be passing by each day? Is there a person that you see regularly and never speak to each other? What is his/her name? Where does he/she live?
- Ani Yeh Yirchah Kodmim – Look in Your Own Backyard First; it’s in the way that you give
עניי עירך קודמים
a. Action Items
i. Make your interactions meaningful – smile, ask a question
ii. Giving anonymously
b. Discussion: 8 levels of giving
- The greatest level, above which there is no greater, is to support a fellow Jew by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others . . .
- A lesser level of charity than this is to give to the poor without knowing to whom one gives, and without the recipient knowing from who he received. For this is performing a mitzvah solely for the sake of Heaven. This is like the “anonymous fund” that was in the Holy Temple [in Jerusalem]. There the righteous gave in secret, and the good poor profited in secret. Giving to a charity fund is similar to this mode of charity, though one should not contribute to a charity fund unless one knows that the person appointed over the fund is trustworthy and wise and a proper administrator, like Rabbi Chananyah ben Teradyon.
- A lesser level of charity than this is when one knows to whom one gives, but the recipient does not know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to walk about in secret and put coins in the doors of the poor. It is worthy and truly good to do this, if those who are responsible for distributing charity are not trustworthy.
- A lesser level of charity than this is when one does not know to whom one gives, but the poor person does know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to tie coins into their robes and throw them behind their backs, and the poor would come up and pick the coins out of their robes, so that they would not be ashamed.
- A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person directly into his hand, but gives before being asked.
- A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person after being asked.
- A lesser level than this is when one gives inadequately, but gives gladly and with a smile.
- A lesser level than this is when one gives unwillingly.
The poor of your city take precedence
This theory establishes a hierarchy of priorities in favor of local, Jewish needs: “If you lend money … to the poor or the rich, the poor takes precedence; your poor and the [general] poor of your town, your poor come first; the poor of your city and the poor of another city, the poor of your city have priority.”
Today, the lines between local and global are blurred. We live in a “flat” world in which the clothing we wear and food we eat were produced by labor in far-off countries while the internet enables us to see the suffering of people thousands of miles away.
- Who is the poor of your city that take precedence? Can this be inside your own family?
- Do we really need to establish a hierarchy of priorities in giving?