Building Community Through Service
1. How can we learn from every person?
2. How can we control our impules to do evil?
3. How can we become happy with our portion?
4. How can we honor all of God's creations?
והחזקת בו - אל תניחהו שירד ויפול ויהיה קשה להקימו, אלא חזקהו משעת מוטת היד. למה זה דומה, למשאוי שעל החמור, עודהו על החמור אחד תופס בו ומעמידו, נפל לארץ, חמשה אין מעמידין אותו:
Do not let him slip down until he falls completely, for then it will be difficult to raise him; rather, strengthen him as he begins to fall. To what is this comparable? To a burden upon an donkey. While it is still on the donkey, one person can hold it and set it in place. If it falls to the earth, even five people cannot set it back. [AJWS translation]
1. Who are the players in this text – seen and unseen? 2. What power dynamics are at play? 3. In today's world there are millions of people who are slipping and millions more who have already fallen completely. Knowing this, how can we still utilize the wisdom of this text? 4. How does the thinking of this text impact how we might think about foreign aid?
1. How do you react to these conditionals? Does this list make sense?
2. How do we define "sustenance?" What types of sustenance don't exist without Torah?
1. Who are the players in this text – seen and unseen?
2. What are the values this text offers that are meant to guide "a person’s actions toward his neighbors and acquaintances, all of his commercial activity, and all social and political institutions"?
3. How are we, as a society, measuring up to Ramban's standards?
1. How is Hillel's phrase here different than the verse in Leviticus, "Love your neighbor as yourself?"
2. If we truly followed this dictum, how would our daily behavior change? How would our government policies change - foreign and domestic?
3. What other social justice themes emerge from this text?
|"The heads of your tribes" (Deuteronomy 29:9) Even though I appointed over you heads, elders, and officers, all of you are equal before Me, for the verse concludes, "All are the people of Israel." Another explanation: for you are all responsible for one another.[translation by AJWS]||
ראשיכם שבטיכם אע"פ שמניתי לכם ראשים זקנים ושוטרים כולכם שוין לפני שנאמר וכל איש ישראל, ד"א כלכם ערבים זה בזה
1. What does the first explanation of the verse that the midrash offers us teach us about leadership?
2. What about the second explanation?
3. According to this midrash, what are the goals of leadership?
|If a person of learning participates in public affairs and serves as judge or arbiter, that person gives stability to the land... But if a person sits in their home and says to themselves, “What have the affairs of society to do with me?... Why should I trouble myself with the people’s voices of protest? Let my soul dwell in peace!”—if one does this, they overthrow the world. [translation by Hazon]||
מַלְכָּהּ שֶׁל תּוֹרָה, בְּמִשְׁפָּט שֶׁהוּא עוֹשֵׂה, מַעֲמִיד אֶת הָאָרֶץ... אִם מֵשִׂים אָדָם עַצְמוֹ כִּתְרוּמָה הַזּוּ שְׁמוּשְׁלֶכֵת בְּזָוִיוֹת הַבָּיִת וְאוֹמֵר: מָה לִי בְּטוֹרַח הַצִּבּוּר ?מָה לִי בְּדִינֵיהֶם? מָה לִי לִשְׁמוֹעַ קוֹלָם? שָׁלוֹם עָלֶיךָ נַפְשִׁי! הֲרֵי זֶה מַחֲרִיב אֶת הָעוֹלָם.
1. When do you sit at home when you might stand up and make a difference? Why is it often easier to do so?
2. What does this text say about the relationship between power and responsibility?
|Even though [Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah] assumed a position of distinguished leadership in the community, nevertheless, he lived a long life. [Translation by Danny Siegel]||
אף על פי שנכנס לגדולה האריך ימים
1. What does this text assume about the relationship of leadership and personal well being? Why?
2. What kinds of sacrifices does a leader make for their community?
3. What kinds of support should a leader expect from their community?
1. Why did Rabbi Akiva’s family members assume that the community would curse and despise him?
2. Why do we often criticize and resent our leaders? How is this related to our expectations of them?
3. How should a successful leader be viewed by their members?
1. How do R. Yehuda Nesiah and the Rabbis each understand the role of leadership?
2. How are societies influenced by their leaders, and how are leaders influenced by their societies?
עֹשֶׂה מִשְׁפַּט יָתוֹם וְאַלְמָנָה וְאֹהֵב גֵּר לָתֶת לוֹ לֶחֶם וְשִׂמְלָה: וַאֲהַבְתֶּם אֶת הַגֵּר כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם:
1. In what ways does this text suggest that we mimic G-d?
2. What is G-d's responsibility to us and what is our responsibility to others? What are the different sources of these responsibilities?
3. This text reminds the reader of Israelite slavery. In what ways is a history of slavery connected to doing justice and loving the stranger?
1. Who is to blame for the destruction of the Temple? Is it fair to R. Johanan to blame R. Zechariah b. Abkulas?
2. How should the matter have been handled by everyone in order to avoid conflict?
3. Do you see any similarities between this story and the way we conduct ourselves today? How can we improve the ways we treat each other?