The United Nations

Emily Goldberg
November 16, 2011
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Since the formation of the Bible, our Jewish progenitors have always been searching for ways to maintain a community. From the Israelite census in the book of Bamidbar to the compiling of the Talmud after the Temple’s destruction, Jews created laws in order to preserve a tight Jewish community among the surrounding polytheistic nations. Even today, when we light candles on Friday nights and bask in the warmth of Shabbat, we are committing ourselves to the community that was created during the Tannaitic days. While some of the laws in our religion seem questionable to many, these are the laws that keep our community unified through the best and worst of times.

Outside of our religion, we abide by more laws and rules set by our greater American and international communities. Like our biblical ancestors, our country and its governmental leaders strive to maintain a civilized and moral society among the multitude of nations that surrounds us. With the guidance and leadership of the United Nations, we, citizens, live by a moral and ethical code on a daily basis. Partnering with dominant representatives from every country, our president works with this international organization in order to provide peace-building and conflict prevention campaigns all over the world. By gathering together, the United Nations promotes positive international relations while instilling a thriving community within each country.

Perhaps both Judaism and the United Nations share a common belief. Whether laws are being created, passed, or vetoed by biblical judges or by political leaders, both Judaism and the United Nations strive to create a communal voice that can be heard throughout the world. When chazzal, or the sages of our Talmud, gathered together to discuss Jewish values and meticulous laws, they formed a communal voice that we consider today as Rabbinic Judaism. Today, we, the people of the book, study those texts, and form our own voices in modern Judaism, fostering the voices of our teachers. Moreover, when the various international presidents sit in a council, speaking to each other and recording new ideas, they are creating a communal voice, a unified moral code that sets the standards for community-building.

Unfortunately, the most common misconception about the communal voice is this idea that the loudest voice is the most empowering. People feel the need to speak over each other rather than listening. Too many times in history did we allow the loudest voices to overpower the weaker ones. It is even more appalling to see that those voices are our fellow Jews, or even worse—political figures that would love to see Israel demolished from the map. Today, no community is perfect, but the flaws found within it are usually repairable. Communal voices were created with intentions to create peace and repair those defects. It should be our obligation, as Jewish and politically educated citizens, to strengthen the communal voices that try to improve our communities, rather than hinder them.

Without the communal voice that worked in 1948, we would not have a Jewish homeland to call our own, and Jewish voices would be endangered rather than unified.  Without the communal voice that can be found within the tractates of rabbinic literature, we may not have had a surviving Jewish community today.

There is a heart-warming midrash I heard recently regarding the significance of a community. Years ago at a yeshiva, a group of students were struggling to find the exact spelling and meaning of God’s name. They vehemently debated all sorts of names that could relate to theology, varying from mystic interpretive words to everyday Hebrew slang. Finally, when realizing that none of these words could truly represent or embody the characteristics of God, they turned to their elder rabbi, an acclaimed scholar of the area. He smiled whole-heartedly and explained to them in a raspy and warm voice:

“One of God’s most holy names is the unity of two letters: Yud- yud. However, people often confuse the true spelling of this word. When you have a yud on top of a yud, God’s name cannot be created. That is neither the correct spelling, nor the outlet to find God. It is only when the yud is next to the other that God’s name can be written it its holiest form. When you have two yudim written next to each other, there is abundant holiness. When there are two yudim, or yehudim (Jews) next to each other, God’s presence can be found. Whether these two yehudim are studying, debating, or uniting over a common belief, God can be found among them as they sit next to each other. However, when a Jew is on top of a Jew, striving to outsmart, outshine, or devaluate the other, there is no sense of holiness, for God’s presence is not with them. Through both writing and action, Jews must strive to create and exude holiness in their every endeavor. “

May we, Jews and political advocates, form and strengthen the communal voices that lead communities in life. We should strive to unify the communities in the world while positively representing both our country and our faith.

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Emily Goldberg is a freshman at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She loves sharing her perspective on faith and religion, especially with her own growing Jewish community. She began recording her own ideas in her blog, “A Leap of Faith.” In the future, she hopes to pursue interfaith studies, social action, theology, and writing. This past summer she joined a life-long community of Jewish thinkers and leaders, The Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel. This year, she pursued her passion for spiritual leadership through her rabbinic internship at Romemu [www.romemu.org], her pastoral internship at St. Patrick's Cathedral and her job as a counselor at Camp Ramah Darom in Georgia. She hopes to lead a liberal and innovative Jewish community of her own someday, one where others can be inspired to pursue coexistence and positive change.

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