Mitzvah Goreret Mitzvah

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, April 26, 2019 / 21 Nisan 5779

Summary: Rabbi Kosak provides an update on the Tiny House and requests volunteers for this Sunday from 12-4 pm.

Mitzvah goreret mitzvah” is a profound if commonplace phrase in the Jewish tradition. Literally, it means that one mitzvah, one good deed or commandment, pulls another one in its wake. While I sometimes insouciantly translate this phrase as “no good deed goes unpunished,” there’s a deeper reality at play, and one which is captured in an equally pithy statement that “skhar mitzvah mitzvah.” The reward for doing a mitzvah is either that action itself, or another mitzvah.

In other words, when we align ourselves to do good in the world, we tend to open ourselves to engage in greater good. Positive habits produce more positive outcomes in a virtuous upward spiral. Negative behaviors, meanwhile, tend to spiral downward.

All of this is an invitation to end Passover by lending a hand this Sunday in building our Tiny Home in the upper parking lot from 12-4 pm. Jennifer Kalenscher and Bob the builder (our lead construction guy) of Cascadia Clusters will be overseeing this Sunday’s efforts. If you are available, you can experience first hand “mitzvah goreret mitzvah.” For the lessons of freedom, repeated throughout the Torah, is to expand our circle of concern. Because we were slaves in Egypt, the Torah repeatedly instructs us, we have an obligation to care for the widow, the orphan, the impoverished and the stranger.

I also want to provide an update for the mobile housing pod currently in our upper parking lot. Our work as a community is helping to develop
very, very low income workforce housing.

It is my hope that this will be just one of many we hope to build and deploy as part of a statewide interfaith effort supported by Governor Brown, County Commissioner Sharon Meiran and many others. I have also begun to reach out to some of my interfaith partners who are interested in this project. Additionally, Rabbi Cahana and Beth Israel, whose Brotherhood began their own work on this project a few years back, are interested in working on this project with us. Rabbi Cahana, Andy Olshin and I will be meeting in early May to further our good work.

Now that our Passover break is almost over we anticipate completing the exterior and interior wood wall coverings by mid to late May and being able to deploy the unit as part of Governor Brown’s Housing Accelerator project soon after.

So far, many different hands have taken part in the work, and more than I can adequately thank. But it truly takes a village, and together we are making a genuine difference.

We are also working with Federation to secure a parcel of land near the JCC. This land would be loaned to Cascadia Clusters as a building site. While this would only be a building site, and while the finished pods would not remain there, it would be a positive statement by our Jewish community. I am hopeful that this will indeed transpire. After all, our values commit us to addressing homelessness caused by Portland’s out of reach housing prices.

As we celebrate our freedom, it is heartening to know that we are also laboring to take others out of the bondage and oppression of poverty. Currently, this is how I am hearing the commanding call to be an “or lagoyim,” a light to the nations. May we all find ways to lift up our fellows.

Chag Sameach,

Rav D

Passover Second Shabbat Table

  1. What role does home play in the lessons of freedom?
  2. Describe your first home as a child. What sort of emotions arise when you recall it?
  3. When did you get your first home (apartment, roommate situation, etc)? Where was it? Can you recall your initial excitement?
  4. Passover is not just about freedom. It is about receiving a home and a divine mission. Do you have a sense of mission in your own life? What is it? How does your home help or hinder you in that mission?

If you’d like to continue this discussion, follow this link to CNS’s Facebook page to share your own perspectives on the topics raised in this week’s Oasis Songs. Comments will be moderated as necessary.

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