The Elul Mitzvah Challenge: Join In!

August 25, 2014Rabbi Danny Burkeman

In Pirkei Avot, the rabbis wrote, “Mitzvah goreret mitzvah, averah goreret averah,” one mitzvah (commandment/good deed) leads to another mitzvah, and one transgression leads to another transgression. I don’t think they could have ever envisaged how true this statement would be in the age of social media. The craze of video challenges has grown over this past year, both with positive and negative effects. 

Earlier in the year, we witnessed the craze of “neknomination” in Europe, as teenagers and young adults challenged one another to participate in risky behavior, recording the evidence to post online and then challenging their friends. We saw how one averah (transgression) really led to another – with devastating repercussions for some of the people involved.

More recently, we have seen the viral video challenge used in a positive way through the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. People have been challenged to pour a bucket of ice water over their head or donate $100 to the ALS Association. While there have been many articles written about the positives and negatives of this campaign, one thing is clear: It has led to a significant rise in the amount of money raised for ALS research.

Now it is time for us to bring this into a Jewish context so that one mitzvah can really lead to another. Traditionally, the month of Elul is a time when we prepare ourselves for the impending High Holidays. It is a time for spiritual reflection and an opportunity to get our “accounts” in order before we stand before God in judgment between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. With this in mind, our community created the Elul Mitzvah Challenge as an opportunity for mitzvot to go viral.

Want to participate? We’re asking you to record a 30-second video of yourself doing some mitzvah (or an element of it) that you find meaningful, and then post it on Facebook with the hashtag #ElulMitzvahChallenge. Then we want you to spread the word by challenging three of your friends to record their own video and do their own mitzvah. Our aim is to reach 613 videos, one to represent each one of the traditional 613 Biblical mitzvot. If (and hopefully when) we reach our target, we at The Community Synagogue of Port Washington will make a donation of $613 to the "36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave" and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, raising money for research into finding cures for childhood cancers.

For more information, visit or check out the Facebook page.

Moses Maimonides, known as the Rambam, taught that we should all see the world as though it is a scale held in the balance, with one mitzvah capable of tipping the scale for the good. With the Elul Mitzvah Challenge, we have the chance to join together as a community and tip that scale. We hope you will join us.

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