Jake Schwartz's Mitzvah Project
"Sacrifice" is from a Middle English verb meaning "to make sacred." It is commonly known as the practice of offering food, valuable objects or the lives of animals to g-d as an act of worship. The term is also used as a metaphor to describe selfless good deeds for others.
The first important concept of sacrifice is the aspect of giving. A sacrifice requires giving up something that belongs to you. What is the purpose of sacrifice, and how do we achieve it without the Bet Hamikdash? In current Jewish practice, our prayer services are designed to parallel the sacrificial practices; for example, we have an extra service on shabbat and holidays called Musaf, to parallel the extra offering. Thatís the easy part.
Sacrifice also allows people to work together to fulfill a common goal. For example, when you give your time or financial support to a community, the community is able to work towards their common goal, and your sacrifice keeps you interested in their success. If the community reaches its goal, you have an amazing feeling of satisfaction from contributing to their success. Often, these goals improve security and quality of life. That is needed before we can tackle the big issues of world peace and human rights. If everyone in the privileged world sacrificed some effort and time, there could be peace throughout all nations. Slowly, by each of us sacrificing, we can get closer to each other as well as to g-d.
I think the best bar and bat mitzvah celebrations include a mitzvah project, celebrating coming of age through acts of giving. We are usually concerned with getting. In our minds, most of our celebrations are built around receiving gifts. We are disappointed if we donít get what we want. We are focused on ourselves, what we deserve, what the world owes us. It is exactly the opposite of the mature attitude expected of adults. Thatís why for my mitzvah project, I am contributing to a Jewish, Christian and Muslim community in Uganda so they can develop their village in peace. Remember, sacrificing can lead to so many things, like pride, satisfaction, peace, and even new states of mind.