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Author Linda Cohen's '1,000 Mitzvahs'


Linda Cohen didn’t always have such a great relationship with her dad. As a teen, she rebelled by leaning heavily into Judaism, something her father had previously rebelled against with his own parents. (Not only did he reject keeping kosher, he even raised pigs on his farm.) But years later, when her father became ill with lung cancer, they were able to heal the rifts between them and become close in a new way. After he died, Cohen says she took her overwhelming grief and embarked on a journey to honor his memory.

She decided to perform 1,000 mitzvahs (which is essentially a good deed in Judaism). She thought it might take her a year, but finding 1,000 acts of kindness worthy of being a mitzvah took more than twice as long. She documented her project through a small blog, which eventually grew as more people found it and became inspired.

Cohen explained to Think Out Loud‘s Allison Frost that when deciding to pursue this project, she never thought each deed would take on heroic proportions. “I really thought about doing a mitzvah in a category called “gemilut chassadim” — that’s how we say it in Hebrew —  it (means) acts of loving kindness.”

Cohen says that while small mitzvahs like changing the toilet paper (hey, it counts!) didn’t transform her life, the process of actively seeking out opportunities for good deeds absolutely did.

“The first mitzvah was giving a book to a friend who was leaving on a trip. I think I never expected them to grow and be bigger. And I have professed that I am just like everyone else and these opportunities were daily things. I think I just started getting conscious about opportunities to be involved in good deeds.”

“My greatest hope was that this idea would be shared. I see that there’s such a huge value in it. I knew how valuable it was for me personally, to move through the healing of grief, but I also saw the value of just living your life really looking for these opportunities.”

Listen to Think Out Loud’s full interview with Linda Cohen.

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