True strength through nurtured inner life.
Rabbi Marc D. Angel, the founder and head of the New York-based Institute of Jewish Ideas and Ideals offers reflections on the rather florid description in this week’s parsha, Shemot, of how the Israelites multiplied and proliferated in Egypt after Joseph and his generation passed on.
“And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them” (Shemot 1:6-7).
Rabbi Angel’s commentary is deeply relevant to anyone who takes seriously his or her sense of belonging, commitment and responsibility to and for the wellbeing of the Jewish community. In other words, it is deeply relevant to GAJE’s mission.
We offer only an abridged version of Rabbi Angel’s commentary. (The full text can be found at: https://www.jewishideas.org/article/core-matter-thoughts-parashat-shemot-rabbi-marc-d-angel)
“We do not know the names of any Israelite leaders in the generation immediately after Joseph’s death. We know nothing about the Israelites’ communal organization, religious life, or social structure. The Torah gives us just a brief glimpse of that generation, and it only speaks of quantity: the Israelites multiplied tremendously… “the land was filled with them.”…
“In describing that generation, the Torah speaks only of quantity, not quality. It uses many words to tell us how numerous the Israelites were; it says nothing about the inner life of the people….
“The message: the Israelites saw themselves in terms of quantity, not quality. They were affluent; they were successful; they filled the land with their presence and their influence. As they became self-absorbed with their material status, they lost sight of their spiritual foundations. When a nation defines its success by its numbers, when it forgets its spiritual content—it is a nation on the verge of disintegration.
“Sometimes, we see nations or communities or institutions that appear so very strong. They count many members. They erect great buildings. They issue glitzy press releases in praise of their numeric strength and their wealth.
“But these same nations, communities or institutions have lost sight of their raison d’etre. While their founders were idealistic and courageous, the new generations have lost that spiritual dynamism. …They appear strong—just as the numerous Israelites appeared to Pharaoh. But they are internally very weak. They produce no visionary leaders to guide them; they produce no courageous leaders to wage their battles. They simply have forgotten why they came into existence in the first place…and they fall into slavery all too easily…
“The Torah reminds us not to judge success or strength by external numerical standards. The Israelites were not strong even though they multiplied in prodigious numbers…No nation, community, institution or individual can be deemed to be strong unless the inner life is healthy.”
GAJE believes that wide, affordable access to Jewish education is the surest way to ensure the health of our community’s inner life.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) January 22nd community consultation is full to capacity.
We urge GAJE members to register for the upcoming annual Limmud Toronto conference on March 19. GAJE will once again be participating in the conference.
Registration details are available at the Limmud Toronto website.