Background on the Mitzvah Project

Crossing ferry on Lake Champlain April 2006
Lake Champlain Ferry - April 2006

January 2007

Hi my name is Linda Cohen. I lost my father, Peter Rabow in December 2006 and decided to take some time reflecting this profound transition in my life. The experience of losing a parent I have discovered is very significant and effects us on a deep level. During my reflection, I began thinking about the word mitzvah. Prior to my father’s death, I discussed with him the idea of donating money in his memory to a charity that was performing mitzvahs. I suggested an organization I was familiar with called Ziv Tzedakah. I felt this would be a wonderful tribute to my father in lieu of flowers.

A few nights ago I had an idea wondering how long it would take for someone (like me) to perform 1000 mitzvahs or commandments. I wondered if I could do it in a year or less. I figured this would be a wonderful way to honor my fathers memory. I will keep you posted on the mitzvahs we do (my family would like to take part in this with me.)

Before we get started though, I want to give some background on the word mitzvah.

Mitzvah (Hebrew: מצווה, IPA: [ˈmɪtsvə], “commandment”; plural, mitzvot; from צוה, tzavah, “command”) is a word used in Judaism to refer to (a) the commandments, of which there are 613, given in the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) or (b) any Jewish law at all. The term can also refer to the fulfilment of a mitzvah as defined above.
The term mitzvah has also come to express any act of human kindness, such as the burial of the body of an unknown person. According to the teachings of Judaism, all moral laws are, or are derived from, divine commandments.

This will be a learning process for me as well since I generally know what human kindnesses are but as of yet am not versed on all of the 613 mitzvahs. I will need to learn them and know what they are. This is very exciting and I am looking forward to a year filled with human kindnesses numbering many more than 1000.

If you would like to support this project, do your own mitzvahs and then let me know about.

November 2007

December 1st will be the year anniversary of my father’s death. I started this project last January and hoped to complete my 1000 mitzvahs in a year. I am currently at almost 500 mitvzahs. The journey in this project has been incredible. I have thought so much more about gratitude and acts of kindnesses, I have shared this idea and my project with my kids, my husband, my parents, teachers, friends and even strangers. The mitzvahs themselves have all been little, small doings, however collectively their has been a power in this project and I feel as though it has taught me so much. I will continue this project until I reach 1000 which I predict will likely be another 7-10 months (if the past several months are the prediction for that). I have loved every part of this experience and I know for certain that my dad and I are in this journey together somehow. I think about him alot and get to talk about him as well and for that I am quite grateful.

January 2008

A year ago this week I began this blog. I remember the night after my husband and I chose my blog name and I had written my first entry I wrote an email to several close friends. I was nervous about what they would think and I didn’t want to come across as being a braggart. The next month I stood up at my networking group and announced that I was taking a spiritual sabbatical from my business and had begun a blog to do 1000 mitzvahs. The feedback immediately for this project has been incredible. I have gotten email from friends, family and strangers with support. They have written that my project has inspired them as well as motivated many of them to do their own mitzvahs. I gave a speech about my blog in my Toastmasters group and an old mom’s club friend who is a journalist wrote an article for our local paper about my project. It’s funny now because I realize that what started out as a small idea has really become something that is truly resonating for me. I feel as though somehow this has become my authentic self. All of the acts of doing the mitzvahs, blogging about them and speaking about this with others has helped me so much this year. This week, I attended a seminar called “Being your own Personal Best”. We were asked to fill out a sheet on intention and asked what our intention was at this time. I wrote that I intended to write a book and become a public speaker. So now I have announced that to the world and I intend to begin to figure out what that actually means. I believe that my journey can help others find a positive way to approach a loss in our lives by doing something to honor your loved one and help you heal in the process. Here’s to others joining me in changing the world one mitzvah at a time.

NOTE: It is with regret that I share the news I found out this winter. Ziv Tzedakah will be officially closing in the next several months. This has been such an amazing organization and while we can still donate to the charities that Ziv has supported it will have to be directly with the organization not through Ziv.

June 2008

It has been a year and a half since I began my mitzvah blog and I have just completed my 700th mitzvah. After returning to work last year, I realized that I wasn’t blogging nearly the same amount as I had been on my sabbatical. I still do mitzvahs but I know that I don’t always remember to track them. I have become much more aware though of having the opportunity to perform a mitzvah and I am always grateful when that occurs. I am still working to complete my goal of 1000 mitzvahs and hope that the continued journey will be both educational and a growth opportunity.

January 2009

I am almost at my two year anniversary and nearing my 900th mitzvah. I have decided to begin publically speaking about my own experience taking on this mitzvah project and all that it has taught me. I hope that I will inspire others to realize that even ordinary people can make a difference in our world. The little things we do make a huge difference and we should never diminish the value of a kind word or gesture. I expect that I will learn from others possibly more than I will share when I begin to speak about my journey. I am excited about the new possibilities.

P.S. My husband asked me recently what I am going to do once I hit the 1000 mark. My answer, Keep going. Here’s to 100,000! Anyone want to join me on the journey?

May 2009

It was clear that we would finish the 1000 mitzvah project this month. I was not completely eager to hit the goal. The mitzvah project has been so much a part of my life for the past two years, that I was sort of sad to see it all end. I ended the project with a 1000th Mitzvah Celebration at the Sunshine Pantry, a local food bank, on May 18th. My goal was to collect 1000 bags of food. Margie Boule columnist from the Oregonian, wrote a wonderful column in our Sunday paper.

The day of the event, I arrived at the Sunshine pantry around 12 noon, they had already received more than 50 bags of food. It was absolutely amazing. The volunteers and Sharon Strauss, director of the Sunshine Pantry worked tirelessly all day long sorting and shelving the food brought in. That evening friends and family joined us for a celebration and the local 11pm news also ran a short segment.

In the end, we didn’t reach our goal of 1000 bags of food. However, it would be hard to call the day a failure, quite the opposite. We all felt that the event had been a tremendous success. We received approximately 500 bags of food and we estimate that at about 2,000 lbs of food. That’s alot of food!

From here, I am still figuring out what to do next. I am working on a book proposal about my mitzvah project and will soon be sharing it with an agent. I will continue to blog about other mitzvah heros I meet. Beyond that we’ll see!