If kindness begets more kindness, Lawrence’s Judi Gitel is right on the money in hoping one mitzvah 15 years ago will pay it forward to thousands of future mitzvahs.
Gitel is the author of “Mercury the Mitzvah Dog,” a children’s book that was released this August. Now available at both Amazon.com and locally at The Raven Book Store, 6 E. Seventh St., the story is the tale of a dog who does good deeds, or mitzvahs in Hebrew.
The idea came to Gitel in 1996 shortly after doing a mitzvah of her own and adopting an older greyhound, named, not surprisingly, Mercury. His adoption came after a speaker visiting her St. Louis synagogue talked about how being kind to animals is a mitzvah.
“He said, you could be kind to animals by not eating meat, you can not wear fur, you can not wear leather, you can eat free-range chickens,” says the meat-lover, listing them off. “(And) you can adopt a grown dog instead of a puppy. And that was a mitzvah I could really buy into.”
Mercury’s adoption may have been a mitzvah, but it wasn’t the whole inspiration for Gitel’s book. That came a few months later, when Mercury began lighting up the lives of nursing home residents with Gitel.
“I used to be a singer at nursing homes and retirement centers and I took him with one time. He would go up to the people and they would pet him and the people who didn’t want to touch him he didn’t go near them — he just seemed to know. And then it was time to sing and he laid down and I sang. ... He was very well behaved,” she says. “I got in the car (afterward) and said, ‘Oh, Mercury, you did a mitzvah, and it was just like ‘boooong.’”
It wasn’t until last year, though, that Gitel finally started sniffing around and found an independent press to publish her book, which she says is aimed at kids from pre-kindergarten to second grade.
With Mercury out there making friends, Gitel says she has plans for more Mercury books, including the tentatively titled “Mercury and the Mitzvah,” “Mercury Welcomes a Mitzvah” and “Mercury the Mitzvah Dog to the Rescue.”