Yesterday was Mitzvah Day, which is when our temple congregation comes together in a day of community service. Although the Hebrew word mitzvah translates to "commandment," it's usually used to refer to a good deed; indeed, good deeds are required of all Jews in the spirit of tikkun olam, or "repairing the world." Sometimes we think that the problems in the world, or even in our own community, are too immense to tackle and that our small actions won't mean anything. But we are taught, "It is not upon you to finish the work, but you are not free to ignore it." That is, even if you aren't the one who can cure the world's ills, you are still obligated to do what you can.
There are dozens of worthy projects, but we usually do the one where a few families get together and form an assembly line to pack hundreds of bag lunches for the people who visit one of the local soup kitchens so that they can eat their hot meal and then bring home a lunch for the next day. I always liked this project because even when my kids were little, they could understand that if we have plenty of food and someone else is hungry, we should share. Even the youngest kid can help pack up the bags and decorate a little card that says "Enjoy your lunch!" Another year we helped prepare "party boxes" for children celebrating their birthdays in a homeless shelter.
This year we and several other families each spent Saturday baking in our homes. Each family then brought 5 dozen goodies to the temple, which we divvied up and packed into big bakery boxes, which the younger kids decorated, as well as cards. Then each family delivered a box of treats to a local fire or police station, or in our case, to the emergency room at the hospital. They were surprised and pleased to receive it, and it was such a fun and easy way to thank all of these very important members of our community.
Pete didn't feel great, so he was banned from the kitchen. Steph made two dozen chocolate chip cookies, Julie made two dozen doughnut muffins, and I decided to make use of three very brown bananas sitting on the counter:
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 large eggs
3 very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, cream the butter until lightened, then beat in the chocolate, eggs, bananas, and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients just until combined; do not overbeat.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake until a toothpick stuck into the center of the bread comes out almost clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for at least 15 minutes before unmolding.