The Jewish Reason That I Shaved My Head
Im ein ani li, mi li? U’kh’she’ani le’atzmi, mah ani? V’im lo ‘akhshav, eimatai?:
If I am not for myself who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?
Recently, I combined my two favorite things, community and social action. It started because of Sammy Sommer, an 8-year-old who was diagnosed with Leukemia (AML) in 2012. The Jewish community rallied together to help however they could, raising funds to send him to Disneyland and Israel and helping make life easier for his family in other various ways. Sadly, Sammy passed away on December 14th, 2013, and the whole Jewish community mourned together.
Then, something amazing happened. The Jewish community came together again, this time with the goal of ending childhood cancer, and many rabbis took part in an event with the St.Baldrick’s Foundation called 36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave. As an aspiring rabbi, I wanted to join in.
While trying to figure out how I could help, I had to make sure I did it in a way that was possible, given that I am a freshman at University of Wisconsin Madison. I didn’t have money to donate, but I did have the leadership skills, the charisma, and the chutzpah to run a fundraiser and eventually shave my head. Mitzvot, good deeds, are not one-size-fits-all. For some people, donating money was the right way to help, while I was thrilled to shave my head. It is important that we find mitzvot that work for us as individuals. If we are not looking out for our best interests, then who is?
As a member of the Jewish community, which calls for us to do mitzvot, I felt I needed to do something. I needed to help so that other families would not feel the same pain that Sammy's family has gone through. Through St. Baldrick’s, I raised $1,300 for pediatric cancer research, and I continue to raise awareness every time I answer the question, “Why are you bald?” Some might think that agreeing to be completely bald is a difficult thing to do, but as I told my mother, “I don’t want to be one of those people who cares more about looks than I do about other people." I wear my baldness as a badge of honor. The way the Jewish community has come together in the recent months is a true testament to the power of compassion and the impact that one little boy can have on a community.
Sam Sommer was nicknamed "Superman Sam," taking on the persona of a superhero as he battled cancer - and he continues to inspire people even after his death. The day I shaved my head, I felt like a superhero, too, being able to make a meaningful difference through mitzvot. Superheroes do things for others. They make the world a better place, and they never wait for someone else to do it first. And it's not just Sammy and me: Everyone has the ability to be a superhero. All it takes is asking what we can do to help, then actually doing it. If every day we ask ourselves, “What have I done for someone else today?” we, too, can be superheroes. If not now, when?