Giving Back as a Jewish Way of Life

by Rabbi Dr. Michael J. Schorin, B.C.C.

Rabbi David J. Wolpe relates the following: “A man once stood before God, his heart breaking from the pain and injustice in the world. ‘Dear God,’ he cried out, ‘Look at all the suffering, the anguish and distress in your world. Why don’t you send help?’ God responded, ‘I did send help. I sent you.’” I can say with conviction that there is no way CJE SeniorLife would be as good as we are, if it weren’t for the countless hours, ways and people who volunteer to help us. No matter how dedicated and devoted our staff is, our volunteers enhance our care and programs every day. There is nothing like the smile of a “Friendly Visitor” coming to play Scrabble with a resident. There is nothing like the wellness check of a volunteer who brings delicious meals to the frail elderly who live in our neighborhoods. There is nothing like the Men’s Club volunteers who help at Lieberman’s Shabbat Morning Services. 

Judaism does not merely request that we provide help if our heart feels moved toward someone or some cause.

It says this is what we are obligated to do. And so we give 10% of our income, if we are able, and we give of our time. There is a lovely quote attributed to Muhammad Ali which states: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” We automatically give back. None of us can expect to live somewhere without paying rent or a mortgage. And similarly, we should not expect to live without giving back to the community in which we live and work.

I hope each of you reading this article is already “giving back” in some way. If not, we have people waiting for you: for companionship, to sit with them out in the courtyard, to improve their lives in a vast number of ways. Is volunteering important? The Jerusalem Talmud (Peah 1:1) tells us: “Deeds of loving–kindness are equal in weight to all the commandments.”

May each of you be inspired to give. And give back. And act as God’s messenger as we endeavor to help. And to heal the world.

Photo: Rabbi Dr. Michael J. Schorin

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of LIFE, CJE SeniorLife's quarterly magazine.