Our Jewish Peoplehood
September 3, 2021
The concept of “Jewish Peoplehood” is commonly traced back to this week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim. Up to this point, the Torah mentions future generations as simply descendants of the biblical characters. However, it is in this week’s reading, where Moses shares Gd’s clear intent that this covenant is to be an everlasting agreement between those present and those yet to be born, that we are introduced to a new concept of the collective religion, culture, tradition, customs, and so much more:
This covenant and this oath are not being established with you alone; I am confirming this pledge with those standing here today before the Lrd our Gd, as well as those who are not here with us today. (Deuteronomy 29:13-14)
It is this eternal pledge that connects us across generations, across continents, and across the boundaries of time. Merriam-Webster defines “Peoplehood” as “the awareness of the underlying unity that makes the individual a part of a people.” Peoplehood is our default instinct to play “Jewish Geography” the moment we meet another Jew and share our respective journeys. Peoplehood is the pride we feel when another Jew around the world wins a Nobel prize, Olympic medal, entertainment award, or authors a best seller. Conversely, peoplehood is the shame we feel when a Jew breaks the law, espouses anti-Jewish values, or crosses the lines of humor beyond our socially accepted comfort levels.
But peoplehood is also our sense of responsibility to one another. It is the instinct to need to do something when a hurricane destroys a neighboring community, or a building devastatingly collapses across the country, or a war breaks out on the other side of the world. Peoplehood is our commitment to leaving a legacy that ensures that our children’s, children’s children have a Jewish community to be part of.
Next week we will be celebrating our Jewish New Year under repeated pandemic conditions that have hopefully only temporarily changed our holiday norms. The High Holy Days have been the time of our Jewish community’s gathering in our houses of worship to reconnect, catch up, pray, reminisce, and comfort one another through the highs and lows of the past year. This year will be the second year in a row when our shuls will not be packed with congregants, shoulder to shoulder listening to our rabbi’s sermons. We will not be standing under our prayer shawls giving shelter to our children as they run around with their friends through the sanctuary and social halls as they have in the past. This year we will once again be socially distanced from one another and masked in the concealment of our natural selves.
But this year we can still reach out to friends and neighbors we have not seen in months, or even years. This year we can still connect and catch up. Strangely, I am reminded of one of my favorite Einstein quotes, “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
This year, in lieu of our normal Rosh Hashanah “hellos” and “shanah tovahs”, let us reach out by phone and call a friend with whom we haven’t spoken in way too long. Let’s catch up and hear about how they’re doing, and if you can get to a second, or third, or even a fourth call, then blessings to you.
As we learned above, peoplehood is not timebound, and not dependent on location. So, let’s reach out to our friends and neighbors, no matter how long it’s been, and no matter where they are. These are the miracles of how we will keep our community alive and flourishing during these most fateful times.
Because we are Stronger Together the Jewish Federation can be…
Shabbat shalom and shanah tovah.
May we all be blessed with a happy, sweet, and healthy 5782.