Weekly DT: Community Central

During the course of the last few makkot, the discussion between Moshe Rabbenu and Pharoah turns from if Bnai Yisrael will be leaving Egypt to who will be leaving Egypt. Pharoah’s “tug of war” about the terms of the Exodus is satirical. Knowing that he lost this battle, the Egyptian king pathetically tries to maintain whatever control over the situation that he can get his hands on. One might learn from this that when you are up against the Master of the World and by definition will be on the losing side, try and be a gracious loser.

More relevant to us are some of Moshe Rabbenu’s comments in response to Pharoah limiting the breadth of the redemption. After Moshe insists on taking the cattle and livestock with them into the desert for Korbanot to Hashem, he makes one of the most powerful statements in the Torah about what it means to be a religious Jew. He states, “we have no understanding of how we will serve Hashem until we will reach that place.” (Shemot 10:26)

A God fearing Jew that has a connection to Geula, as we are all meant to have, knows well that limitations and boundaries are antithetical to the endless possibilities that lay in the future. Our challenge is first, to place our complete faith and trust in He that contains endless potential to bring about our national redemption. Second, the redemption itself bears for us unimaginable surprises of which we cannot even dream of. This is the definition of a redeemed Jew in our times.

Moshe and Pharoah also are at odds about which members of Am Yisrael will be leaving. Pharoah argues that only the males have a justifiable cause to depart. Moshe tells the king, “with young men and elders we will go, with our sons and with our daughters, with our sheep and with our cattle we will go, because it is a holiday for us.” (Shemot 10:9)

The Ramba”n in a short but powerful piece says, Pharoah wanted only the important people, like the elders and officers of the nation to leave Egypt. Moshe responded by saying everyone will be going as “it is a Mitzvah for all of us to celebrate in front of Him!”

Moshe understood clearly that the exciting future for Bnai Yisrael includes every last individual. Sure, there are different roles and different members have different responsibilities, but everyone has a place and we exclude no one.

Without applying this message on a national level, something beyond the understanding of the writer, Moshe is teaching us about community. A strong and successful Jewish community involves multiple members of different genders and ages and various roles. Exclusion or denying the place of one group or another is foolish and will only lead to the demise of that community.

At the heart of the concept of Amutat Oro Shel Adam is a yeshiva and aliyah program that revolves around community. This drastically differs from most yeshivot. In most yeshivas, community life (like mostly everything else) is viewed as a distraction to Torah learning. The goal of a yeshiva bachor is to put in as many hours that he can plowing away at the Gemara or Halacha. Exposure to community life for a yeshiva student necessitates an added, external element and clouds the focus of non-stop Torah learning.

But this is exactly what this generation needs. While there will always be an elite group who comprise the Talmide Chachamim of the generation and for them “pure” and uninterrupted learning is and should be the focus, a vast majority of Jewish males need to be on a track which will lead them toward being Bnai Torah who will be committed husbands, fathers and community members. For this main stream group, especially those that plan to marry and support their family in the short term, an approach of “only Torah” can be ill-advised. This group of men, simultaneous to serious learning, should be exposed to young families, elders, parents and children interacting, community needs and activities. In this way, the life that lays ahead will be more natural and less shocking, as it often can be for a yeshiva student who has yet to leave the ד’ אמות של הלכה or insular Torah environment.

It is for this reason that Oro Shel Adam places emphasis on involving and building with both groups – single olim and families. Together they form a fortified community of members and participants.

This is the formula that Moshe Rabbenu is teaching us now in our less idea state and this will be in some unimaginable way the formula of community in the Days to Come. !במהרה בימינו, אמן

(Comments and reactions are always welcomed in response to the ideas presented in the Dvar Torah)

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