Judaism: Day 15 – Community Obligations

It’s taken for granted that being a part of a community is a good thing, even if we don’t belong to one. However, we forget that being a part of community also implies you have obligations to the community as well.

The Talmudic reading I studied yesterday focused on this passage:

“Hillel says: Do not separate yourself from the community; do not believe in yourself until the day you die; do not judge your fellow until you have reached his place; do not make a statement that cannot be easily understood, on the ground that it will be understood eventually; and do not say ‘When I am free I will study,” for perhaps you will not become free.” 

The rabbis make the following points about being a part of a community

  • You should participate emotionally and physically in the issues of the community, and share its pains and difficult. One who does will “share in the eventual consolation of the Messianic era”
  • Even if you are without sin, you still shouldn’t separate yourself from the community as you will be deemed “outside the Jewish pale”
  • When the community is acting honorably (actively pursuing Torah and mitzvos), each additional participant further honors God
  • If a community is corrupt and there is no alternative, it is preferable to live in solitude outside of the community
  • If the community is in imminent danger, you must not escape the community and only save yourself. You must stay an look for ways to save the community
  • Prayers of a community are for more effective than the prayers of an individual

According to the Talmud, the only condition in which it is okay to separate yourself from the community is if it has become completely corrupted.

This is completely counter-cultural to the way we live today. If we don’t like our company (a pseudo-community), we start job-hunting. If we don’t like the city we live in, we move.

It’s interesting to think about the implications of adopting a community-focused mindset instead of an individualist one.

Instead of quitting your job because you think your company is headed down the toilet, you would have to consider sticking around and trying to fix it.

If you hate the city or town or you live in because of the culture, amenities, people, whatever, you would have to ask yourself “are these things beyond saving?” before deciding to move.

It’s an interesting thought exercise; it might even cause some discomfort as it takes away the “just quit/leave/move” option, which is immensely appealing when stuck in an uncomfortable situation.