A Mitzvah By Any Other Name….

I have decided to name this blog since I have a feeling that we will be developing a close relationship with one another and besides, it’s more substantive than just saying: Blog.

Henceforth, this column shall be known as: Tachlis! a wonderful Yiddish/Hebrew word meaning: the real thing, something of substance and not fluff. Speaking Tachlis is telling the unvarnished truth, the real thing. It’s a lot of pressure to always write Tachlis, but as the great Rabbi Hillel meant to write: “If I don’t speak Tachlis, then who will?” And so I shall attempt to do as well!

When I was a young boy attending Hebrew School, my studioes included classes entitled: “Customs and Ceremonies”. The teachers attempted to teach all the important things a Jew needed to know in order to navigate the Jewish world: prayer, tefillin, laws of Kashrut, rituals, Israel, Hebrew, the dos and don’ts of Jewish living.

I don’t know if my becoming a rabbi had anything to do with it, but, like chicken soup, I suppose it didn’t hurt!

However, with everything that I had learned in my formal studies as a pre and then post bar mitzvah lad, it was only later that I stumbled upon other Jewish values and principles, though equally based within the Torah, were not centered within the narrow confines of the synagogue and religious calendar and therefore became relegated to a secondary position among Jewish priorities.

In their scope and impact for ourselves and our world, they have greater relevance than much of what our Hebrew School teachers attempted to drill into our heads and hearts because they speak and resonate within each and every one of us, ritually observant or not, Jews and non-Jews alike.

They are so basic that they are often seen, not as values, much less, Jewish values at all, but rather, basic common sense. In reality, however, they are as holy as any normative religious ritual or teaching just not accompanied by blessings or rituals.

Among them are:

Tikkun Olam- Repairing the world
Baal Tashchit- Not Wasting or Destroying
Derech Eretz- Manners
Rachmanut- Mercy
Tza’ar Baalei Chayim- Mercy on Animals
Makdim Shalom- Being the first to greet someone
Halbanat Panim- Not embarrassing anyone
Ahavat Ger- Loving the stranger
Nivul Peh- Avoidance of improper speech

And the list goes on and on…

In a world starving for direction and a moral compass, a world asking the time of day and being told how to make a watch, perhaps we rabbis should call a Time Out, huddle up and reexamine our priorities. In our desire to be better Jews, have we forgotten that life occurs outside of the synagogue walls and study halls as well as within? Are we guilty of over emphasizing too many ritual mitzvot at the expense minimizing those mitzvot, which are just as holy, but are just not accompanied by blessings or rituals?

Perhaps in our searching for the forest, we have let the trees get in the way?

About the Author
Rabbi Norman S. Lipson is Founding Rabbi of Temple Dor Dorim in Weston, Florida. Israel advocacy and education have been in the forefront of Rabbi Lipson's more than 50 years in the rabbinate. Having led numerous Pilgrimages to Israel, he teaches about Israel and Judaism through inter-faith and adult education programs in South Florida. A graduate of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, he holds a Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. He is the author of two books: “How Many Memories Make a Minyan?” and “Rabbi, My Dog Ate My Shofar!” both available on Kindle Bookstore.
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