A Social Action Month: Heshvan

Imagine doing good the other 11 months.

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Once you’ve chosen your issue, learn about it. Read blogs and newspapers and sign up for RSS feeds that expand your understanding of the problem. Find organizations whose work on that issue you respect and donate tzedakah to them regularly. If the issue is local, attend community organizing meetings to build support for your position and to build relationships with fellow activists. If the issue is national, find out if there is relevant legislation in Congress and meet with your Senators and Representative to explain your position and ask for their support.

Harry Chapin, the folk singer and hunger activist, once said that "involvement with [justice] issues means you're involved with the good people… Commitment, in and of itself, irrespective of whether you win or not, is something that truly makes your life worthwhile."

Decide to make a difference on that one thing so that next year during Heshvan, you'll have tangible results on which to reflect and a reinvigorated sense of the role that justice plays in a meaningful and integral Judaism.

Paraphrasing Maimonides

In Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, (Laws of Gifts to the Poor 10:1), we learn that we are obligated to be more scrupulous in fulfilling the mitzvah of pursuing justice (in the Hebrew, tzedakah, which can also be interpreted as charity or acts of righteousness) than any other positive mitzvah, because the pursuit of justice is the sign of the righteous person, the seed of Abraham our ancestor, as it is said, "For I know him that he will command his children to pursue justice" (Genesis 18:19).

Accordingly, the pursuit of justice is far more than just one of the mitzvot; it is the sine qua non of membership in the Jewish people and the very act that binds us to our founding ancestor Abraham. In pursuing justice during Heshvan, and throughout the year, we reconnect ourselves to the very essence of what makes us Jewish.

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Aaron Dorfman

Aaron Dorfman is the Director of Jewish Education at American Jewish World Service. Before joining AJWS, Aaron completed a three-year Wexner Graduate Fellowship with a Masters Degree in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a year of study at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.