Congregation Beth El–Keser Israel

85 Harrison Street, New Haven, CT 06515-1724 | P: 203.389.2108 |

Our banner is based on BEKI’s stained glass, designed in 2008 by Cynthia Beth Rubin. For information on this and other of Cynthia’s work, go to: <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Artisan Fabrication by JC Glass of Branford, CT

Mitzva Indigestion


Is it possible to do too much of a mitzva?

Halakha (Torah law) specifies minimums for some mitzvot (commandments). A person should give at least 10% of their wealth annually for tzedaqa (charity); leave at least 1/60th of their crops unpicked (“pe’a”) for the poor to collect; drink at least 4 cups of wine or grape juice at the seder; recite the Shema` at least twice a day. But does halakha specify maximums?

Indeed it does. One should not give so much tzedaqa as to impoverish one’s self or drink so much wine at the seder as to become inebriated. And while not a matter of law, there is a midrash that has God complaining that someone was a nudge because he prayed too much.

Our shul community is ardent in providing mitzva-opportunities to its members. Members are constantly called and called upon to help make a minyan, read Torah on Shabbat, set up the oneg Shabbat or qiddush, contribute money, or in other words, give give give. It is no surpise that from time to time active members experience “burn-out” or what we might call “mitzva indigestion.”

For many dedicated and caring BEKI members it is hard to say “no” to an invitation to do a mitzva. And so, for the benefit of the many new members who might not yet know what to expect, and for those already suffering mitzva indigestion, I want suggest the following perspective.

At BEKI you will be offered more mitzva opportunities than you can possibly accept. You will have to choose which calls you can answer. So please do not feel guilty that you can not do everything, and please do not feel annoyed that you are constantly asked. Those in charge of organizing dinners, services and fundraising show that they care about you by being sure to offer you the chance to participate, and they sometimes do so knowing that not everyone will be able to answer the call. It’s like going to a great mitzva-feast. Eat! Eat! You will find performing most of the mitzvot to be fulfilling. Some people like to eat a lot of the same thing; others like to try a taste of many different dishes. Whatever your style, please be careful not to get mitzva indigestion.

© Jon-Jay Tilsen 1997

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