Haven on Earth
I had a meeting with another Jew yesterday, he invited me for lunch an opportunity to get to know more about each other. His first name is Yoseph, like me, and he enjoys to write about his Jewish point of view as I do. When we met though I felt a bit awkward I noticed so did he. Yoseph asked me about my background, how was it for me growing up, was there much Jewishness and how did I come to Israel. I answered while eating and when I asked Yoseph to tell me his story he said, let us finish eating first.
We came to a discussion about the role of the Jewish people. The direction of the conversation from your point of view, I said to Yoseph, was that the Jewish people are meant to be a light unto the nations. That is, if only we could get our act together. You mentioned that we could do better if we were more aware of our role and that is the reason why you wrote a book. You wish to contribute to that awareness. You explained briefly that you had help from your Rebbeim to bring good examples from the tradition. You show in your book that we are a people that align with the workings of what makes reality a closeness to G~d. We have closeness to G~d as a people and as individuals, to that I would add, we as groups. A closeness to G~d both from the metaphysical perspective and from the day to day living, that is to say from the point of view of the practical customs in our law. At that point I recalled what you said about 'if we could only get our act together. 'But how will we get our act together?'. You answered, 'Through Torah, as more and more of us, and more and more of each one of us keeps Torah all our troubles will fall away.' You said that the book shows a lot more just how good it would be if we had our act together, how good it would be to share this knowledge. Each person does his little bit to contribute to that time and that awareness. So that, Yoseph explained, is the reason he wrote his book that is to say, to share it with us.
From my direction of the conversation, I felt it all the more important to bridge the two levels of theoretical role playing and the responsibility to play them in practice. Considering your appreciation of the goodness of the role of the people and the goodness of the role of the individual, I responded to Yoseph, I sense the lack of the goodness of the role of community, and that's exactly what I wanted to take up. Community is a great link in building the individual as a Torah Jew and simultaneously as a link to the greater community in the role of a Torah people. But how will the individual and a community of individuals get it together if not by a practical step between them say close friends. Then I would ask, can an individual be a good friend without learning from another's living example, one who acts toward that person like a family member no matter what, whether in friendly times whether in unfriendly times? The circles and vectors of causes and influences are not well defined to me, just what comes from what, exactly I don't know. I believe we need wisdom to know, I understand we must live to live it. So we spoke yesterday, Yoseph and I. I'm willing to think more about this, isn't it relevant for us?
So a greater plan of Mankind under wonderful supervision might be us if we are ready to grow from immature needs to a more friendly, a more mature, collective well being. Here the Torah states in the Oral Tradition that the world stands on three pillars, but who will explain so condensed wisdom as three pillars, for that matter the great general rule of one observance, it being the key to the whole Torah life style? Surely the duty and skill of explanation has the face of a caring elder who understands. A face shining with the supervision of wisdom, a living wisdom relevant to the needs, aware of the readiness in the less mature. Is that face available? Are our different groups ready for such a face? It seems to me both older and younger faces as many faces will learn to meet in order to find each other. Can we start some where along the plan and realize that it has all been done before, and will all be done again? Then if so, if we are living the eternal lesson in life, who then is it dwelling between the faces? I believe that we, in all our relationships share a dwelling place. Not to forget the lonely face, lest we despise the meek, for even the lonely face is in a hidden way in a relationship with the face of the world, the one that dwells between past and future, found in all boundary situations being its release beyond and its enclosure within.
How correct it is to state that my point of view, even when learning wisdom, reflects my face and my relationship to another face. After the conversation with Yoseph yesterday I saw two faces to Judaism. Last night at the Yeshiva educational movie program, one movie so beautifully depicted the story and prophecy of Temple Mountain. The second movie was a yeshiva organized interview with people in Toronto, Canada, asking each person on the side-walk, 'What is a Jew?'. The interview seems to show many people not too sure about the answer. However there were answers, that is to say they did answer somewhat at least from their point of view and in reaction to the interviewer and what he represented. They spoke of what a Jew is in comparison to a Canadian or a Christian. They spoke about whether or not a Jew is a type of person or people, and what type of people they are. A people from Israel, a people with family life and business inclination. The Jewish inclination to succeed in money matters is a main concern for the Jew in contrast to his historical tradition.
After the movie I was asked 'what is a Jew?'. I barely could breathe, gulping at the thought of defining myself, at the opportunity to identify my personhood, my peoplehood. I lost touch with my natural breath at the thought of describing the summary of my knowledge or the ignorance that hides behind it. 'I have two answers', I said, 'one - ask your local Orthodox Rabbi.' What is the other answer, they asked me perhaps the first answer was a stall tactic. I said gulping as I finished what I felt was my last breath, 'A Jew Represents Mankind learning to live in Harmony as one group.' That 'one group' caught in my throat like only a last word can, and it did.
I asked some of my family their response to the question, 'What is a Jew?'. My wife answered, 'One born of a Jewish mother or one that G~d gave a Jewish soul, having converted he or she is permitted to keep Torah and Mitzvot. Then I asked again, this time I suggested that she give more personal reflection to her answer. My wife then said, 'A Jew must bring light to the world, spread the will of Hashem and elevate the world to Holiness'. I was fortunate enough to speak with my family on the telephone, to Australia. I asked my mother if she would answer the question, 'What is a Jew'. My mother said, 'Born of a Jewish mother or someone who has converted to Judaism and has taken up the faith.' I wanted to know more, again I asked for a more personal reflection, I received this answer, 'A shared consciousness with other Jews. I don't know what it's like to be any one other than a Jew.' When I asked my brother he answered, saying, 'Strong beliefs in family. To be a good person and to help people.' That telephone call was just last night.
Tonight I spoke with a student from Yeshiva. We came up with an idea to help share the Jewish Identity Question and help guide the questioner to the traditional sources. The Idea is to set up a computer data file accessible by telephone called InterNet, the international computer network. On that system we will ask people to respond to the question, What is a Jew, and give a caller the opportunity to access other peoples answers to this question. At the same time traditional sources to the subject will be right on file accessible by the same people. Its a baiting question to the searching Jew and a fishing net for the Yeshiva behind the scenes. End