The Essential Component of Jewish Continuity
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The Power of Community
Last night I heard about an astounding study that affects us all. A certain philanthropist in Long Island is funding an academic study on the “fallout” from Judaism. Why are so many children falling through the cracks of the Jewish community? We all have our own ideas and theories about this and there is probably truth to all of them. The study so far points to a common denominator or a pattern that has developed. Almost all those that have fallen away are not members of a community - a Kehilla. Could it be so simple? Probably not. But it sure makes a lot of sense. Whatever the individual problem, learning disabilities, dysfunctional households, or lousy schools it is possible to survive if there is a safety net of community. If everyone is doing their own thing, leaving wide cracks in between, people will fall between those cracks.
Consider the time of Rabbi Akiva. Between Pesach and Shavuos 24,000 students perished because they did not act respectfully to each other. (Yevamos 62) Just one line in the Gemara! Nobody sinned, nobody ate Treif, nobody stole, nobody worshipped idols - they just did their own thing, by themselves. Everyone worked independently. They couldn’t form a network. They were 24,000 individuals.
A Medrash: Rebbe Ami asked Rebbe Shmuel bar Nachman, “Being that I heard that you are an expert in homiletics explain to me why it says, “G-d’s charity is even in Heaven”. He answered; just as earthlings need to depend on charity from each other so do those creatures that dwell in the Heavens depend on charity from each other. (Vayikra Rabba 31; 1)
The Medrash refers to angels and to other celestial beings. Angels obviously do not have the human needs that we have; they obviously are not lacking in food, clothing or money. What is the purpose of Tzedaka in Heaven?
The answer is that there is no creature in Heaven or Earth designed to stand alone. No one is independent except for G-d. Even angels are not designed to work in a vacuum they need other angels to share with. The essence of G-d’s design is sharing.
We say it in our Siddur. “All the celestial beings accept upon themselves the yoke of Heaven and then they all give permission to each other to sanctify their Creator with praise. in unity they all say Kadosh, Kadosh, kadosh.”
Why do angels need permission from each other to praise G-d? Because there is no praise in a vacuum. There is no existence in a vacuum. G-d designed the world, on all levels, for sharing.
During these days between Pesach and Shavuos let’s consider our own families. I find it disheartening that there seems to be an anti-communal culture. Not just in shtiebels but in schools and in Chesed and Tzedaka organizations. Everyone is falling into the trap. We must guard ourselves from privatization. If our families are not part of something greater than themselves, like the students of Rabbi Akiva - they will perish. The students of Rabbi Akiva were great people but even Malachim have to share with each other. The students of Rabbi Akiva defied their design and perished. No one, not even angels are designed to go it alone. A net pulled apart into thread will save no one!
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