As we usher in the first Shabbat of the summer, from the Sea of Galilee to the shores of Lake Michigan, our Mitzvah Corps community takes a collective deep breath. For many of our teens’ peers, these months bring relaxation, a welcome respite from the stress and bustle of life during the academic year. And yet, these incredible individuals have opted into the opposite, to spend their precious summer being challenged, learning firsthand that while bringing energy and enthusiasm is invaluable, in truth the path to justice is long and tedious.
So this Shabbat, we breathe. In the text of Chukat (Numbers 19:1-17), we read about our ancestors arriving in the wilderness of Zin toward the end of nearly forty years of wandering the desert, and imagine the hopeful relief they must have felt to enter a new place, yet the building frustration at the lack of water. While Moses was instructed by God to speak to the rock, his temper boils over and instead he strikes it, in the process forgoing his dream of entering the Promised Land.
After having spent the last few months watching local, state, federal, and global events unfolding, our Mitzvah Corps teens felt that same sense of relief to enter into a space where they were surrounded by likeminded peers, ready to receive the tools to make a difference, and excited to see results. Similarly to their ancestors, however, they’ve learned over the last week that change is a slow process. We may have reached Zin, but we don’t yet have water, and striking the rock achieves little. Instead, we breathe. We learn. We listen. We prepare to act with intentionality and purpose, to speak to the rock, before we presume to have the answers.
In New Brunswick, NJ, participants have begun volunteering, and yet realizing that their biggest impact may not be come from the work itself, but from the legacy they leave behind. Over in Chicago, IL, teens have been learning about police accountability, race, and systemic oppression, and as they canvassed to advocate for accountability clauses in police union contracts, they’ve learned how far we have to go to ensure our wider communities are educated about what happens too often behind closed doors. Down in Nuevo Pacuare, Costa Rica, the group has separated from their most common sources of information, technology, to understand the value of what we learn when we stop and listen to the world around us. And back east in Israel, the teens have spent their first 24 hours on the border with Syria, beginning to take in the complexity of the land and borders, and the narratives that have been built within them.
So this Shabbat, we breathe. We take in what we’ve learned, and we rest our souls to prepare for the weeks and months ahead. We commit to refrain from striking the rock, no matter how tempting, and instead to use one another, our communities, to nourish our passion, growth, and dedication to being in this work for the long haul.
|Alexa Broida||Jonah Freelander|
|Director||Director of Strategic Partnerships & Development|