The spirituality of volunteerism.

By Hannah Fried-Tanzer, CJP/JVS Emerging Jewish Leader and JBBBS Intern

I grew up in a Jewish family and attended Hebrew School classes where we discussed the importance of helping others. I came to understand giving back, volunteerism, as a “Jewish value.” But in my work with Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters, I’ve learned it’s more than that. Here, we encounter volunteers of various religious persuasions (and some none at all) who indicate that giving back is a deeply-held value. Sometimes, even a spiritual one.

Judaism: Responsibility for others

The Talmud, a central text of rabbinic Judaism, teaches us that “all men are responsible for one another” (Sanhedrin, 27b).

Christianity: Helping those in need

Matthew 25:35 reads, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Islam: Your “brother,” yourself

Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself,” (Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi, 13).

Hinduism: Loving others brings joy

The Yajur Veda, one of the four official texts of Hinduism, says “The one who loves all intensely begins perceiving in all living beings a part of himself. He becomes a lover of all, a part and parcel of the Universal Joy. He flows with the stream of happiness, and is enriched by each soul.”

Buddhism: Watching after yourself and those around you

The Samyutta Nikaya, a Buddhist scripture, teaches that “When watching after yourself, you watch after others. When watching after others, you watch after yourself.”

Sikhism: The three Golden Rules

The three tenets of Sikh faith are naam japna (remembering God through mediation), kirat karo (earning an honest living), and vand chakko (selflessly serving others, and sharing income and resources.

Confucianism-The karma of doing good

A famous quote from Confucius: “He who wished to secure the good of others, has already secured his own.”

Taoism-The three greatest treasures

Lao Tzu wrote in the Chinese classic text, Tao Te Ching, “Simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.”

Shinto: The purity of doing good

A famous Shinto saying: “To do good is to be pure. To commit evil is to be impure.”

And for those with no affiliation, a lesson we learned as children…

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”  -Dr. Seuss


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