On Saturday night, seven weeks will have elapsed from the holiday of Pesach. That means, of course, the arrival and celebration of the festival of Shavuot.
Assembled at the foot of Mount Sinai, the Children of Israel – an undisciplined, uneducated large rabble of men and women, recently liberated from their slavery in Egypt – were about to receive the Torah. They would personally enter into a Covenant with God and commit all future generations to that Covenant as well. That Covenant would alter the course of humankind for all time. The mission of the Jews to bring human perfection into the world would become the high star above guiding us and lighting our way. Ethical monotheism would become the uncompromisable belief system against which all human behaviour would be measured.
The renowned scholar, teacher, Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, has described that covenant with great clarity and eloquence.
“Jewry is a community devoted to the realization of perfection in human history. The Jewish people came into being to teach the world the concept and promise of redemption and thus to be a blessing to the nations. It maintains its distinctive existence to offer a community model of how to live and work toward that perfect goal and to work alongside the rest of the world to achieve it. Without this commitment, the children of Israel would have remained a family or a tribe. Once Jewish existence was pledged to carry the values, then in addition to being born into Judaism [or by adopting the religion], they could connect and take on responsibility for Jewish fate in order to realize these values. Thus, Jewry opened up from being a family to being a community. [Our emphasis]
“Sharing values is not enough. There must be a commitment to realize them, to pass them on, to be responsible until they are fulfilled. “
Thus, Rabbi Greenberg has succinctly explained how Jewish particularism enhances, broadens and improves humanitarian universalism.
Without Jewish education, alas, future generations whose embrace of the Covenant was promised at Sinai on Shavuot some 3,600 years ago, will not know how to fulfill that promise.
The community – as defined by Rabbi Greenberg – must ensure that the promise is kept. “To recognize that the other is part of my community is to recognize that I need the other for the sake of my own fulfillment. In helping the other,” Rabbi Greenberg wrote, “I invest in myself. Thus community leads to help even as help creates the community.”
GAJE believes that making Jewish education affordable is the task, the obligation, of the entire community.
If we are to preserve and enhance the sense of Jewish community for all time to come, as Rabbi Greenberg envisions, we have no choice. We must make Jewish education affordable.
Shabbat shalom and Chag Shavuot samayach.