Do Good…Don’t Just Feel Good

We probably don’t know each other personally. While there’s a very good chance that I would like you–I’m a pretty social guy–at this point I really don’t care about your self-image or if your Jewish practice provides you a full complement of “warm fuzzies”. The goal of Jewish practice is not to fill you with ecstasy, make you feel good about yourself, give you a free and legal high–it’s not a self-help program or anything else directed at you or at me. In fact, even if we become best of friends, your superficial gaiety still won’t likely matter much to me.

Nonetheless, you are critically important to me and I’ll do everything I possibly can to help you succeed. Because, you see, I can’t succeed without you and without every other Jew and, ultimately, without every other created being in the universe. Without you pulling your weight, me pulling mine and the gal around the corner pulling hers and the tree on the opposite side of the world pullings its weight as well.

The nineteenth chapter of Shemot (Parshat Yitro), just preceding Matan Torah (The Aseret Divrot/Ten Sayings (Commandments)), repeatedly emphasizes that the entire nation, Kol Ha’Am, all six hundred thousand root souls of the Jewish People, were present for this most singular moment in human history. Not one soul was absent. We’re taught that every Jew, both those alive at that specific time as well as those living throughout history, both before and after that historical event, were there.

A notable and amazing fact is that the world’s Jewish population has, over history, remained at the relatively stable number of around twelve million. Natural growth of a population that size, over, say, the two thousand year stretch of just our current exile, would lead us to expect many more Jews living in today’s world. Acknowledging that we have indeed been almost wiped out several times within this history, those catastrophes don’t begin to account for our much-lower-than-expected population.

Rather, our souls have been dispersed throughout the general world population through waves of assimilation, both voluntary and forced, to the point that these original six hundred thousand souls, most of them today unknown and anonymous, if not making up a large proportion of humanity, have, when combined with the non-Jewish souls we have positively impacted and influenced, must include almost everyone.

The point of this isn’t that “we’re all Jewish”. Rather, all humanity, in one way or another, is included in the experience of Torah. While still only the tiniest minority of humanity is obligated to perform mitzvot, all of us, together, have distinct, unique roles to play to bring the universe to its ultimate state. For the Jewish People to be Or l’Goyim, a Light unto the Nations, we must engage and inspire everyone, beginning, of course, from our center and then working outward, eventually including everyone to live with an awareness of God’s existence and of His Divine Will. And while only our tiny minority are obliged by Covenant, Brit, to the actual 613 Mitzvot, we’re all absolutely needed, in each of our individual uniqueness, to perform the roles and tasks that only we uniquely can, to partner with The Creator to bring the Universe to it’s Ultimate Perfection.

Geula, Redemption/Resolution/Perfection is mankind’s privilege/responsibility. It is possible only with each of us contributing our unique efforts. Everyone of us, throughout human history, has/has-had/will-have roles and tasks that only we can do, and the project will be completed only when each of us has done our share, be it in the specific realm of Torah and Mitzvot for us who fill the halachic definition of Jewish, be it in all the other wide realms of human achievement and accomplishment for those who are, nonetheless, obligated/privileged to participate.

Whether directly obligated, or “merely” inspired by Sinai, all of humanity has a part to play and, in addition to the specific mitzvot, every Jew also has the obligation to engage/inspire not only fellow Jews, but everyone else as well, to live with the understanding that there is, indeed, a Creator Who both encourages and expects every person to join together.

“Inclusiveness” is a popular catch phrase, but is usually reserved for creating a warm sense of well-being. While feelings, including feeling good about oneself and one’s fellows are nice, Judaism has always been, and remains to this day, committed to doing good rather than merely “feeling good”.

Please join not just me, but everyone who has been involved in this adventure since Matan Torah, since all of us, together, received the Holy Torah. Let’s get going. Together, and only together, we can achieve and co-create the ultimate good of the universe.

Shabbat Shalom

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