Monday, July 26, 2010

Yearning for Unity within Pluralism

Parshat Eikev
D’varim 7:12 – 11:25
20 Av 5770 / July 30 – 31, 2010

And if you do obey these rules and observe them faithfully, the Lord your God will maintain for you the gracious covenant that He made with you fathers” [Devarim 7.12] is how Parshat Eikev begins.  The first blessing bestowed upon us is that of fertility, both of the womb and of the soil, two essential elements to sustaining any population. The blessings which follow include health and seeing God’s might struck against those who oppose the Jews.  Sounds all well and good right? Follow all of the laws in the Torah and we will be rewarded not just personally  but  as a nation as well, with good  health, abundant food and offspring. And better yet, all those groups who oppose us will be punished. 

As we read Devarim the last book in the Torah, we are reminded that Torah was given as a system of guidelines to live moral and ethical lives, and if followed we will be rewarded. This is a typical conditional  statement. The parsha begins with a conditional; If a is true, then b has to be true. Here is where I often get stuck  though.  Maybe a is not true. I keep kosher and go to shul on Friday nights, celebrate  holidays and pray, but what  does it exactly mean to “obey these rules and observe them faithfully”?  Am I following the laws of the Torah, the hypothesis in the first verse in Eikev? And is there one specific way to do this? And ultimately, is the way that I observe the thing that defines me as a Jew? 

This question has plagued me for some time now, not because I do not feel adequate or because I believe that there  is only one specific way to follow Torah, but more so  that I am not sure how to outwardly substantiate my passion for Pluralistic Judaism in which I can use mitzvot as a guide for my life rather than strict doctrine. I can focus on the commandments with the most personal meaning.  I can adapt commandments that resonate with me and if others decide that a different piece of Judaism is more meaningful to them, all that will happen is the creation of a  rich and diverse Jewish community. Most of all, this makes following the Torah a dynamic and organic process- just as life is. Even as Jews, different sects and communities have formed due to differences in observance and practice.  Yet to me- they are all Jews and this is the thing that I love the most about Judaism.  

Likewise, each Moishe  House has defined its own Jewish community and practices/observes in their own way.  This is extremely unique within a Jewish organization, not being told that our events or community need to follow the guidelines of a particular movement, but that the residents and participants are able to define for themselves the type of Jewish environment in which they  feel comfortable. Moishe House is a wonderful place to “obey these rules and observe them faithfully” while creating a truly diverse  yet unified Jewish community, joined by a shared ancestry, values and most of all passion.

Shabbat Shalom.
-Jordy Snyder (Moishe House Silver Spring)


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