In our mystical writings, our rabbis say that the fate of the world, whether the world endures or is destroyed, hinges on a set of scales that are suspended in heaven. On the one side are all of the world’s sins. And on the other side are all of the world’s mitzvot, the good and kind deeds. The scale is in perfect balance. And the rabbis say that if you perform but one mitzvah and tilt the scale but a tiny bit, you have the power to save the world.
Though we may not take that account literally, there is a powerful message here about the importance of every person and the consequences of our actions. Whether it be through the bread that we share, the caring and kindness that we show, or the charity that we give, for all of us, may we keep the image of the scales in our minds and hearts.
I spent the past days in Puerto Rico with a group from our temple. We went there to aid in efforts to restore life and hope, as best we could, to the many people of Puerto Rico who are still suffering the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey. While it is hard to put my experience into words, what comes to mind is “heartwarming” and “heartbreaking.” As we all recall our experience with Hurricane Sandy, this is nothing like it. Yes, we saw demolished homes and areas that looked like they had been hit by a powerful bomb; people who had lost their homes and all of their possessions. But we also witnessed people of great courage and inner strength. They have been without electricity for almost five months, yet they persist in living their lives even as there is no end in sight. These are people who feel abandoned by their government and very much alone as they confront their ordeal. They cause us to feel humbled even as we know that their gratitude for our efforts is great.
We witnessed firsthand the power of the human spirit to rise up with determination and faith that life would yet return to normal. We cleaned, we hammered, we carried; but most of all, we brought caring to people who feel abandoned and alone. The experience was perhaps more rewarding for us than for the gracious people we met. Yes, our trip was a mitzvah in the truest sense and a memory that I will always carry.
As we consider that legend about the “scales” in heaven, may it be that each of us can, each day, whisper to ourselves: “This day I saved the world.”
Rabbi David Greenberg