Sunday, December 13, 2009

For God's Sake, Be Yourself!

When Isaac blessed Jacob with the future mission of his descendants, he described them as being kehal amim, "a congregation of peoples" (Bereishit/Genesis 28:3). In other words, this group would comprise many distinct tribes (peoples), but all would be united as a necessary part of the same nation (congregation). This is letting us know that Jews are not a monolithic group. We are a unique blend of people with many different characteristics and missions. Despite these differences, or perhaps because of these differences, when all segments of our population are viewed before God, it comes together quite well. Unfortunately, we don't see things from God's vantage point. If we did, I highly doubt we would be as adamantly opposed to those whose views or practices differ from our own.

There is no need to be exactly alike; in fact, we were intended to each be individually unique. As long as we fail to acknowledge this point, a great deal of intra-religious tension will continue. Many of us tend to pride ourselves in our education, profession, or particular service of God and how we observe His commandments. At times, this can lead to looking down upon or not even allowing fellow Jews to use their God-given talents for good. This must stop because we are actually hurting ourselves in the process! We're too few in number to be anything other than ourselves. We simply must pursue our particular role/happiness and be ethical while doing so. When we are all engaged in our individual pursuit - and are good to one another along the way - we will transform into that fully functional "congregation of peoples" we were destined to become.

This brings to mind a lesson I heard from Rabbi Paysach Krohn many years ago. The way the Jewish people function best is when we emulate the symbolism of the Keruvim (Cherubim), which were mounted upon the Aron HaBrit, the Ark of the Covenant:
Firstly, each figure had its wings rising toward heaven - representing the way each one of us uniquely serves God. Secondly, the faces on each figure were looking at one another - representing the way we treat other people. The message is that while each one of us is engaged in our unique service of God and individual mission in life, we must never forget to act decently toward others while they do the same. If we follow the example given to us through the symbolism of the Keruvim, we will eventually merit seeing their return to the Holy Temple - the third and final Beit Hamikdash.

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