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Kol Nidrei: The Power of One Mitzvah
Oscar Wilde once said something so perfectly cynical, it almost sounds Jewish. He said: “The nicest feeling in the world is to do a good deed anonymously and have somebody find out.”
Sometimes we think, “What does it matter what I do? Nobody notices. Nobody knows the difference.” Yet one of the central messages of the Torah is that when I do something kind, or when I resist temptation, or bite back angry words – it’s never anonymous, the great Somebody always knows and takes notice.
Based on a moving Yud Shevat sichah of the Rebbe, this speech gets to the heart of what a rabbi hopes to achieve through any address: an increase in performance of practical mitzvos.
The speech begins with one of the most dramatic and enigmatic stories in Navi. Jewish scholars through the ages have attempted to unravel the mystery of this narrative. With the Rebbe’s explanation, we learn that while big miracles may transform nature, they do not change human nature. To find G-d we must look in the small matters of everyday life, in the small good deeds that don’t grab the headlines, in the soft words of encouragement that lifts another’s spirit, in the small acts of charity that are never publicized, in the whisper of daily prayer. A bris, for example, may be just one small step for a mensch, but it’s a giant leap for Jewish kind.
While we do not always see the immediate results of our act, G-d remembers, cherishes and holds on to every mitzvah. This point is emphasized through several historical tales, including a description of some modern graffiti in Rachel’s tomb that demonstrate the history-changing effects of seemingly small deeds. The speech concludes with a heart-tugging tale of a misunderstood orphan and a call to recapture the Jewish teaching of the power of one small mitzvah.