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Three Conditions for Jewish Peoplehood

Friday, 22 May, 2020 - 12:20 pm

Next week we celebrate the festival of Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah at Sinai. A number of revolutionary concepts were introduced with the giving of the Torah. One of them is Jewish peoplehood. (It really started to form at the time of the Exodus and became formalized at Sinai). Along with Jewish peoplehood came the condition of our Arvut - sense of responsibility – for one another. When G-d gave us the Torah and the Mitzvot contained therein, he declared us responsible for each other’s commitment. The phrase our sages use for this is “Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh Lazeh” – all Jews are responsible for one another.

Now the word Areivim also has additional connotations that offer some insight to the nature of this responsibility. There can be a sense of responsibility where a person maintains a distance and condescends to “take care of” the other. There are many folks who advocate and support the care for others while adopting a “not in my backyard” approach. Areivim also means “mixed together” – in other words our sense of responsibility comes with a feeling of “we are in this together,” rather than “you are needy and I am here to throw you a few crumbs from afar.”

How indeed can we expect this attitude to be adopted and implemented? That’s where the third meaning of Areivim comes in. Areivim also means sweet. When we view each other as sweet and we act sweetly to each other, this is the recipe for successful Arvut – responsibility.

If another Jew is seen as sweet, then I am happy to “mix” with them, which, in turn, infuses the Arvut with a passion and enthusiasm that makes it effective!   

As Louisiana has entered “Phase 1 of reopening,” we are going to cautiously proceed with a slow and deliberate reopening of Chabad House. For right now only the minyan, following all of the appropriate protocols and regulations, will be reinstated. All other activities will still take place remotely.

Since there is a special tradition to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments on Shavuot (next Friday), we are developing a plan to use an outdoor space (weather permitting), thereby enabling more people to participate, while maintaining “social distancing” protocols. Details will be announced on Monday, G-d willing.

Let us hope that Hashem will bring a speedy healing to our world, allowing us to once again be a people and a community together. Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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