We are Family

I. "Do not separate yourself from the community." (Hillel in Pirkei Avot 2:5)
Hillel's simple statement says a great deal about Judaism's approach to holiness and to the human condition.
  • Judaism is a communal religion - we connect with the Holy when we are joined together with other Jews who share our traditions, texts and values.  
  • Judaism teaches us that we need to work to overcome our natural desire to pull away from our community:  after all, working and praying and compromising with others is HARD.  Hillel's teaching addresses the natural human response: "My life would be easier if I just went off and did my own thing in my own way."  No matter how challenging it may be to come together with others to move toward a common goal, Jews believe that we benefit spiritually, emotionally and intellectually if we actively experience the struggles and joys that being part of a larger whole brings.
II. Jews are united through our traditions and texts.  Our minds are free to religiously challenge and explore and question because the Jewish bond is based not on a uniform set of beliefs and thoughts but on a shared calendar (marked by holy days), common rituals and practices whether they be for life cycle events, special observances or marking our time,  similar dietary customs and restrictions, and holy texts beginning with the Torah and rest of the Bible through centuries of rabbinic teachings and commentaries.

III.  We communicate with God in a group.
Our prescribed daily services can only be said in their entirety if we are in the presence of a minyan:  a quorum of ten Jewish adults.  There are many layers of meaning in this requirement, including:
  • There is a special holiness in the web of connection among Jews that we do not find when praying alone (although solitary/spontaneous prayer can be powerful in its own way), and
  • Each prayer may not feel particularly relevant to me in the present moment.  But it will resonate with somebody within the group, and perhaps, at some later time, with me as well.  Our communal Jewish prayer life is not simply for individual benefit - it is for the benefit of the whole and each changing, developing person within that whole.  We pray together in support of one another and each participant's unique needs.

IV.  We are Family.
"Kol Yisrael arevim zeh l'zeh" (All of the Jewish people are responsible for one another.)
Just like in nuclear families, Jews don't always get along;  but we know that when times get tough we are there for each other.