August 6, 2021
This week’s Re’eh Torah reading begins with the words, “Behold [Re’eh], I set before you today a blessing and a curse.” (Deuteronomy 11:26) This is the classic, the good with the bad, the two sides of the same coin, the double-edged sword, the cloud with a silver lining, and even the shining light with its expected shadow. Well, you get the point!
This is Gd’s direct announcement that if we follow the commandments and live up to our potential we will be rewarded with blessings. Yet, if we abandon the commandments and let our undesirable instincts lead the way, the curses will follow accordingly.
Whether we believe these verses to be literal or allegorical is not the purpose of this narrative. However, I do believe that every one of us can think of a real and personal example of when something difficult or bad occurred and yet we were able to glean a positive lesson or outcome. And, conversely, maybe we were experiencing something great and wonderful, but the memory in fact reminds us of a negative consequence. Either way, we have all probably lived through “too much of a good thing” or had that moment of finding our “blessing in disguise.”
All of this is to say, that when it comes to our attitudes toward our community, whether we define it as our nuclear family, our congregational or social community, or even if we broaden the scope to include our cultural and ethnic group, we have all been beneficiaries of the blessings as well as the curses.
As I wrote last week, I promised in this week’s writing to share a metaphor that should provide greater clarity on the role of the Jewish Federation and our collective mission to unite the community, plan for the community, and secure the resources for the Jewish community’s sustainable future. And as a lifelong educator, I am a passionate believer that if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a metaphor is worth a thousand pictures.
So here it goes…
Over the last few years, possibly even decades, we have been building beautiful and even self-contained “neighborhoods” across San Antonio, the United States, Israel, and the Diaspora. Some neighborhoods even have their own recreational facilities, local markets, coffee shops, and in some cases, these neighborhoods maintain their own health and spiritual facilities. The fact is that many of these neighborhoods have become so self-sufficient that they have separated themselves from the rest of the community and function as their own independent entities.
Similarly, in the Jewish community, we have built metaphorical neighborhoods around independent Jewish agencies and synagogues that have siloed us from our Jewish friends and families. And when we try to travel from one neighborhood to another, the roads have become overrun with brush and neglected to the point where it requires such great struggle to make the journey, so few of us have chosen to exert the effort.
This is why the Jewish Federation is so important. The Jewish Federation’s mission is to maintain these roads and avenues for easy access from one neighborhood to the other. It is to ensure that each neighborhood is never alone, that they are protected, and that they have the resources for healthy survival. Taking care of the roads is not sexy. We rarely notice the infrastructure unless it is broken. We curse it when it’s not working and rarely bless the work that goes into ensuring its maintenance and upkeep.
Our great sage Hillel, wrote in the Ethics of our Fathers (Pirke Avot 2:4), “Do not separate yourself from your community.” And yet, too many of us have done just that, whether intentionally or not. What will we do, how will we respond, and from where will our efforts come, when the community reaches out and asks us to join in maintaining these critical paths to one another?
Without our collective investment into the community, the Jewish Federation would not be…
HERE for you.
HERE for our community.
HERE for our future.
Thank you for helping us pursue our collective mission to build community.