For the week ending 4 February 2006 / 6 Shevat 5766

The Immunity of Community

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: By nature I am a very solitary person who avoids being involved in communal affairs. I’ve often been lectured that this is a wrong approach to life. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: The Sage Hillel offered the following advice (Pirkei Avot 2:4):

“Do not isolate yourself from the community and don’t have confidence in yourself until the day of your death.”

The simple meaning of the first of these two seemingly separate bits of advice is that one who shares the community’s woes will merit sharing its joys. The second one is a warning that someone can be a pious Jew for most of his lifetime and yet abandon his faith.

There is, however, another approach offered by the commentary Tiferet Yisrael, which views these two bits of advice as being linked to each other.

A man must never be overly confident in regard to his material or spiritual well-being. Life has its ups and downs so that no one can be certain that his present situation will not deteriorate. The best guarantee that one has for retaining his level of material security and spiritual solidity is the support – both material and spiritual – that the community provides.

Follow this valuable advice and do your best to be part of your community – for its sake and your sake.

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