Days of Awe – Strength in Unity

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On a regular basis I am reminded that I am not in control. That things happen for a reason. That G-d ultimately decides everything. 

I am not yet on the level where I can see the good in everything that happens… but certainly, I can see how that would be something to aspire to. 

On a recent trip to Johannesburg I was looking forward to watching some series on the 2-hour flight. As I settled in, I switched on my device only to find out my dear wife had mistakenly deleted the downloads to free up space. When I realised that I had not even brought with a book to read, I stewed at how unjust the world could be. I knew I had a few minutes before we had to switch off electronic devices so I took the decision to download some shiurim to pass the time. In the shiur I listened to, I found the inspiration to write this message. 

We are entering the Days of Awe. The period when our community comes out in numbers to pray for a sweet new year and for a good decree in heaven. On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, Jews of all types come out of the woodwork and count themselves among the community. A fascinating insight I learned in the shiur by Rabi Daniel Glatstein is that the Hebrew word for congregation, Tzibur, is an acronym.

The shoresh – the three-letter etymological root – of the word tzibur, is Tzadi, Bet, Reish. The Tzadi stands for Tzadikim (righteous people); the Bet stands for Beinonim (the intermediate level, the people who are good and bad); and the Reish stands for Rsha’im (those wholly identified with their transgressions with few redeeming qualities). 

We may think that a shul full of righteous people, whatever that means, would be ideal. Let’s leave out the rotten apples, even the average people. The deep insight from this acronym is that a real community comprises all three; we need equal representation when standing before our Creator. Without one, the other has no congregation. 

In our daily lives, be it personally, professionally or communally, we are quick to label, to judge. What the word, tzibur, comes to teach us is that there is strength in unity only if and when we choose to stand together. When we do this, we create an entity called klal Yisrael; an untouchable, unified, Godly community of souls. 

As Jews worldwide prepare for the Days of Awe, let us take strength from this message of standing together. Through this, may Hashem bless klal Yisrael and our very own special community with a sweet, healthy, prosperous and peaceful 5780.

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To read the editor’s column for this issue, click here

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