Some of you might remember me from my long distance running days. Any one who has done any type of endurance training knows that while the physical training is important, there comes a point when the body wants to give up. At that point, the brain kicks in says, “Don’t give up. You can go another mile. You can go another two miles. The end is very near.” Before you know it, the brain convinces you not to think about how you feel, but rather, to think about what you can do.”
It’s true that I haven’t run, or trained like this in a very long time. I may not be sweating or getting cramps on my legs, but… let’s just say, that often I find myself tapping into that same endurance, and mental prowess. I’m running my own marathons. Aren’t we all?
Recently, I was the one cheering a marathon – my kids’. A marathon which required a similar mental and physical discipline, yet was motivated by a much higher goal than any I had way back when, in my running days. My kids participated in Mendel’s Mitzvah Marathon.
You may recall this post, from last year’s Thanksgiving in which I spoke about Mendel’s powerful and practical message to the world, and his untimely passing only a few days later.
After Mendel’s passing, albeit I had my issues with G-d (you can read about that, here ), I also became tenacious in my belief that Mashiach would arrive any minute.
I, like many others, believed we were almost at the finish line. The brain whispering, “Do not give up. You’re almost there…” The pain, almost unbearable, yet the brain tells the body, “Don’t give up. You’re almost there. Don’t think about how you feel. Think about what you can do.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that I’m reminded that G-d’s sense of time, or distance, for that matter, is far different from mine.
Although the year of Mendel’s passing arrived, the marathon is still going on…
But, as I learned from my running days, giving up is never an option. No matter how you feel, you can still keep doing. And in this marathon – that of Exile – this might be all the more true.
Part of the reason giving up on this particular marathon is not an option, is because the whole world depends on us. Moreover, even the souls that departed depend on us.
A few weeks before Mendel’s yortzeit, we all started doubting if we would get to the finish line before the 13 of Tishrei. And if we didn’t? And if we weren’t in Yerushalaim, reunited with our loved ones, by then… Then what!?
Then, it meant that we had to do more. Run more. Run faster. Keep going!
The day of someone’s yortzeit (anniversary of their soul ascending to Heaven) is incredibly important – not just for the departed, but for those of us who can connect to the departed. On a person’s yortzeit, their neshama ascends a higher level in shamayim (Heaven). And how does that affect us, you might say?
When we connect to the soul of the departed, by perpetuating their mission in this world, we also, get an alyah (ascent). Our souls also ascend with them. Thus, a yortzeit is not something that we take lightly. It is a day in which we reflect on the person’s mission, what they contributed to this world. We commit ourselves to carry on that mission, and help them do what they can no longer do in this world. For, contrary to the world they are now in, this world is a world of Action!
And, as the dear teacher who spearheaded Mendel’s Mitzvah Marathon wisely recognized, we must get the children also to jump in the action. And jump to action they did!
The minute our school’s administration explained Mendel’s Mitvah Marathon to the students, they started taking mitzvot upon themselves. They began to bring bricks to Mendel’s Mitzvah Marathon wall, until, within three weeks, the wall was completely full. (We’re talking about an elementary and middle school consisting of only 70 children!)
I think this poem, by Mendel’s younger sister, Chani, best encapsulates the significance of Mendel’s Mitzvah Marathon:
To all my friends and teachers who worked so hard to achieve,
Mendel’s Mitzvah Marathon, the results I can’t believe!!
So many mitzvahs were done to build the Mikdash Hashlishi,
Hashem will surely see we are ready as can be!
My parents felt so happy with each brick they saw go up
It gave them so much nachas, they hope it doesn’t stop!
You see Mendel loved to do mitzvahs and he’s not here now, so…..
We must do them for him, and his Neshama will glow.
He smiles when we are nice to our friends, when we learn and daven more,
Let’s keep making him happy and proud, he sees it all for sure!
So my parents, bubby’s and zaidy’s, Nosson, Aryeh and me,
Say thank you for being part of something special and holy!
All the neshamas are looking down and smiling from Shamayim,
Soon we’ll all be together with Moshiach in Yerushalayim!!
The results of Mendel’s Mitzvah Marathon were nothing short of astonishing. By the day of Mendel’s yortzeit, 1,321 mitzvot had been done! Our kids had completed 375 bricks. In addition, they had distributed 1,053 Modeh Ani cards and 60 Shabbat candle lighting kits to people, encouraging them to also take Jewish action!
And by the way, this is just what was recorded in the three weeks before Mendel’s yortzeit. Thanks to the Internet and Facebook, hundred’s, if not thousand’s of people have been touched, and moved to positive action since Mendel’s passing.
I am proud of my children and all the children who took Mendel’s Mitzvah Marathon to heart. Our children have learned that our actions continue to help the souls of our departed, and in the process, our actions keep perfecting this world.
We cannot know the ways of G-d. While any long distance runner knows that the race towards the finish line is always painful and hard, once the that marathon is over, he knows with certainty that it was well worth it.
May we all finally know it, by crossing the finish line towards the final Redemption, immediately!
I have to mention the wonderful Melinda from Design and Enhance, who used her talent in graphic design to create the visuals for Mendel’s Mitvah Marathon in a way that depicted exactly the spirit and soul of this project. Thank You! May H” bless you with many opportunities to use your talents for good.