Community


The Jewish people; often called "Am Yisrael" or the people of Israel, we put an emphasis on establishing a structure of community. There is a Midrash that says one who leaves a community is as if he destroys the world. In fact, recitation of the Torah and certain prayers can only be said in the presence of a Minyan (which is ten men); a mini community.

The Talmud says that a Talmid Chacham (Torah scholar) is not allowed to live in a city that doesn't have several things: Beit Din (court of law), Tzedakah fund in order to help those in need, a Beit Knesset (synagogue), Mikvah (ritual bath), teacher of children..etc (Sanhedrin 17b). The community must provide not only a person's spiritual needs, but their physical needs as well.

There are three types of community in Judaism: Eidah, Tzibbur, and Kehillah, each signifying a different association. Eidah comes from the word Ed or "witness." Eidah is a community with people who have have much in common and a strong identity. Tzibbur is a community formed by numbers, not identity. Kehillah is made up of individuals who join together for a common purpose. The Jewish people truly became a Kehillah with the building of the Tabernacle.

On Saturday night begins the holiday of Shavuot, the "Feast of Weeks." It is celebrated seven weeks after Passover. There are two religious observances of Shavuot: harvesting of grain, and giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage festivals when males were required to go to Jerusalem with offerings of the first fruits. Most of the Jewish holidays, including Shavuot revolve around rituals that include the community. We go to synagogue, read the Ten Commandments, the Book of Ruth (which took place during the barley harvest), eat special meals with family and friends. It is customary to learn all night with members of our community. During Shavuot we recite Hallel, Psalms of Praise, and Yizkor, the memorial service.

Involvement in a community can do many things for the individual: provide support, friendship, opportunities for growth, and protection from others who wish to do harm. May we all be blessed to find the right community that provides both our spiritual and physical needs.