Act now to make this world a better place


Moish and Sara were clearing the old clothes from their closets.

“Hey, look what I found in the pocket of one of your suits!” Sara called out, holding a claim ticket in her hand.

“What is that?” asked Moish.

“Apparently, you left some shoes for repair at the shop around the corner … 10 years ago.”

“You don’t say,” said Moish as he looked over the ticket. “I often wondered what happened to those shoes. Do you think they’re still there?”

“I doubt it,” Sara said.

“I’ve got nothing to lose at this point. I’ll just ask about them,” Moish said.

So Moish walked around the corner and into the shop, wearing his best poker face. He placed the ticket on the counter and said, “I’m here to pick up some shoes.”

“Oh my, these have been here for some time,” the shoe repairman said after checking the ticket. “I hope we still have them!”

He walked into a back room and began rummaging through some boxes.

“Hey,” he called out. “They’re still here!”

“I can’t believe it! That’s incredible!” Moish responded, with obvious delight.

The shoe repairman returned to the counter holding a pair of very dusty shoes. “Yep, still got ’em. They’ll be ready for you next Thursday.”

While this may be an “old” story, it represents the reality of how we live our lives. There is no doubt that we are all guilty of putting things off from time to time.

And the reality is that much of the time we never have to deal with those things, because they simply go away. But sometimes, when we least expect it, and usually at the most inconvenient time, we are all faced with the results of our procrastination.

How do we know what is important? How do we prioritize our lives? Is it by weighing what is right versus wrong, morals and ethics versus fun and convenience? Or do we live our lives reacting to the squeaky wheel?

Between Pesach and Shavuot, we have an opportunity to think. We are given an opportunity to think about the freedom that God gave us as a people and as individuals during Pesach. We have time to weigh our lives against our responsibility to ourselves, to others and to our world.

Our God challenged us with an amazing opportunity to be the best of the best when we received the gift of Torah on Mount Sinai, which we recall each year during Shavuot.

We must ask ourselves: will we manage our lives by virtue of what happens to us, or will we proactively navigate our lives on the path given to us by our loving God?

We all know that we are supposed to be an or la’goyim (“a light for all nations”). Have we placed the ticket of responsibility in our pocket and put off that obligation to act together as a people united to protect God’s world? Have we decided to put off our responsibility to protect each other or care for one another as the giving, caring and loving people that Torah teaches us to be?

It is time for us to stop, look around and find the ticket that we received when we all were handed the great gift of Torah. That ticket will not only provide us with a repaired pair of shoes, but it will give us an opportunity to do tikkun olam (“repair the world”). It’s not too late.

As we celebrate another beautiful festival, the festival of Shavuot 5782, let us accept our responsibility, the responsibility given to us when we received the gift of Torah to make this world as good as God wanted this world to be.

As we celebrate the gift of Torah, as we celebrate Shavuot, let us remember, “If It Is to Be, It’s Up to Me!” Yes, we all share a very important part in creation, and we must act now and do our share today, not next week, not tomorrow, to make this world a better place ve-al kol yoshvei teiveil (“for all who live on earth”).

As we enjoy the sweet and wonderful cheese blintzes, the delicious cheesecake and the sweet ice-cream sundae on Shavuot, let us make up our minds to find our ticket, the one that we put away years ago that allows us to do our part to make the world just a little better this year. Chag shavuot sameach.

RICHARD PERLMAN is the senior rabbi of Temple Ner Tamid, in Peabody, Massachusetts.