On the Shabbat evening before we hosted our first Jewish Food and Folk Festival, I asked congregants gathered for that service to list, from their perspective, aspects of Judaism about which our neighbors should know. Before a day when we shared the sights, tastes and sounds of Judaism with such enthusiasm, I wanted to get a sense of which intangible values are central to our heritage. This is an impressive list!
- Personal responsibility.
- We are still here!
- Judaism is not just Christianity without Jesus.
- We are not one monolithic block that all think and act alike.
- Torah is the most important thing and everything else is commentary. The values of the Torah are the guideposts of our lives.
- We try to be a moral and ethical people.
- We believe in one God.
- A direct and personal experience and relationship with God is available to all of us regardless of social standing or background.
- With our prayerbook in both Hebrew and English, we reaffirm that Hebrew, the language of our ancestors, has meaning and significance for us.
- Acceptance of other peoples views: we believe that it's everyone's right to believe what they want, and we want that same consideration.
- Working for peace for all peoples and standing up for the oppressed are central to our faith.
- Tikkun olam--repairing the world.
- Advocating for justice: tzedek and tzedakah.
- Shabbat has kept the Jewish people. The values of the Sabbath – rest, consideration, joy and reverence for creation - are central to Judaism.
- Tikkun midot--repairing oneself.
- We were once slaves in Egypt, but now we're free.
- It's important to make distinctions between what is proper and not proper, right and wrong, and secular and holy
The murders at Village Shalom and the Jewish Community Center of Overland Park, Kansas on April 13 put some of these values to the test. A memorial service at the JCC on April 17 brought together a cross-section of the Kansas City interfaith community to offer prayers and words of comfort, reassurance and hope. The fact that none of the victims—Reat Griffin Underwood, William Lewis Corporon, and Terri LaManno—were Jewish demonstrates the reality that we know so well in Las Cruces. No faith community is an island. We all live together. Residents in a city should seek to strengthen ties with each other across any “definitions” of identity that might have a potential to create division. We sing often the words of Psalm 133:1: “How good and how pleasant it is when people dwell together in unity.” We have the opportunity, every day, to strengthen and deepen that sense of interconnectedness.
On Sunday, April 20, as we continued our Passover celebration and the Christian world observed Easter, I shared this thought on my Facebook profile: “Redemption...deliverance...freedom. These themes suffuse this day with meaning for many people around the world. May we work together throughout the year with these values as our goal.”
Those principles, along with peace, constitute a thread running through every Shabbat and holiday worship service. And with Israel Independence Day approaching, we continue to look for progress along the path to reconciliation within Israel, between various ideological sub-communities, and between Israel and her neighbors. Our impromptu summary of central Jewish tenets can and should serve as a guide in the relationships we develop and maintain throughout our lives.
Shalom, which we usually translate as peace, can also mean “wholeness” or “completeness.” When we say or sing “Oseh Shalom,” that prayer reminds us that the tranquility and growth within creation can be ours if we work in harmony with one another. May the teachings of our tradition continue to guide us towards that ultimate destination.