Our Real Center

In Netzavim Vayeilech, this week’s Torah portion, we read about the commandment of Hakel, the ingathering. Once every 7 years, the entire nation would gather in the Tabernacle and alter in the Temple in a reenactment of the giving of the Torah. This national expression of devotion served as an essential reminder that Torah was at the center of their national experience. Thousands of years later, I believe that it is still critical to maintain Torah at the center of our national consciousness. But what is the Torah that keeps us unified, without subjugating us to one notion or another of uniformity? It is often helpful to explore the intellectual limits of Judaism in an effort to deduce the center. Like the Jewish people the meaning of the Torah is wandering throughout history. I doubt that this will be something that I will be to resolve in this lifetime let alone a short blog post.

It might helping thinking about this question in the context of other aspects of Hakel itselfWhile, they came every 7 years to hear the Torah being read we do not know how well they listened. All we know is that they were asked to show up and they did. While, we in Western thinking often disappear into the world of our heads, we should not forget the importance of being together physically in one place even or especially when we do not agree with each other.

We recently just finished summer camp and next week we will all be together for Rosh HaShanah. It is truly amazing getting together with so many people with whom you have a connection in one place. There is a certain excitement that cannot not be discounted. While, this is amazing we cannot forget the importance of having one place for the Jewish people all the world over.  In the words of Ahad Ha-am, Israel is our “spiritual center” for a cultural and spiritual revival of the Jewish people. While it is important for us all to be grappling with the same Torah, we cannot undervalue the importance of having a geographic epicenter for our people. With things looming in Syria it is impossible for our thoughts not being with our Jewish family in Israel during this time of Year. May we all be in-gathered and inscribed together in the Book of Life.


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