If you were to look around at the Jewish world in which we live, would you be pleased? Would you see everything you ever dreamed of? A perfect world bereft of ignorance, selfishness, and intolerance? Most likely not. Unfortunately, such an ideal life would require tireless effort, true selflessness and dialogue that the average person tends to avoid. Today, we live in a harsh reality where the concepts of taking without giving, indulging without sharing, and judging without knowing overpower the seemingly insignificant acts of kindness.
A wise and acclaimed scholar in history, Reb Nachman of Breslov, taught that every Jew has the potential to leave an impact in life through faith. “Every single Jew is a portion of God above, and the essence of Godliness is in the heart.” According to the rebellious lives we live today, however, would God really be impressed with the representation of inner Godliness that the Jewish population at large display daily? I would like to think that an active God has already mapped out His ideal “to-do” list of easily fixable goals for a more faithful world.
1. How we value our money. We have an obligation, as the future of the Jewish world, to remain responsible for our fellow men. Our monthly paychecks enable most of us to afford not only the basic necessities for our families, but also the lavish luxuries that embellish our lives unnecessarily. Wealthy Jewish families invest in second and third homes by the mountains and beaches while their neighbors are struggling to afford their first. Larger congregations fund extravagant synagogues and sanctuaries while members of our Jewish community at large can barely provide nourishing meals on their tables. As Ruth Messinger explained in her article, “Ethical Consumption,” everyone needs to experience the sweetness of having enough. Perhaps we should reconsider the ways in which we consume our finances and take one more step toward eternal selflessness, a world in which we can provide for everyone to have enough.
2. How we value our time. If you have an extra hour of your day, how would you spend it? So many of us claim that we don’t have that extra five minutes to stop and think, let alone to take action to improve our world. However, if we do not strive to provide for our communities worldwide, then how else would we live up to our title as the “Chosen People?” For if we were not chosen on this earth to ameliorate it, then we merely exist, rather than truly live. Unfortunately, too many extraneous minutes are spent analyzing our inner selves and even worse—our neighbors of different backgrounds. We look at Jews of different denominations and audaciously claim that they are “less” of Jews than we are. In order to set the paragon for our faith, we must not consume our time in the flaws that diverge us from our neighbors but rather the sparks of light that unite us. In the future, we, as a whole, should focus on how we can utilize that extra hour to enhance our universal Jewish community.
3. How we value our community. How often do we rely on our family, whether immediate, congregational, or external? Our stable community is the everlasting constant throughout every aspect of our lifecycles, varying from births, bnei mitzvah, weddings, other simchot, and the funerals. We have constantly been surrounded by a minimum of ten fellow Jews with which to celebrate during the zeniths of our successes, and mourn during the moments of despair. Your Jewish community, wherever it may be, has stood beside you during the days you will cherish for the rest of your life, and during the days you wish you could forget. Under any circumstance, we turn to that open community for all of our needs and troubles, but do we open our arms to them? Are we balancing our respective Jewish community or simply consuming its benefits? How often do we offer all of the time, support, and gratitude that we are provided with on a daily basis? If we truly want to be the waking representations of Godliness, then we must propel our stable communities to new heights. Never again should there be a congregant who must celebrate or mourn alone. Perhaps that is why Jewish law requires a quorum of at least ten people during a formal prayer service; no one should experience a life of faith by himself. If we were chosen to live by certain standards of faith, then we are obligated to enhance our communities together, not abandon them entirely.
The future of Judaism is in the hands of those who consume their money, time, and communities in the most genuine ways. We must take the portions of Godliness that we were given and enable faith, a uniting factor of every organized religion, to prosper. A community of faith is only jeopardized when it is unbalanced, unsupported, and unattended. It is our obligation to take God’s “to-do” list and transform it into a new reality, a perfect world that we strive to see. If we refocus our hearts and minds into the entire community, rather than just ourselves, we will truly be consuming our values correctly.