Photo by Natalie Toombs on Unsplash

It Takes a Village: True Or False?

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” (17th century English poet John Donne)

If someone claims to be self-sustaining, ask them what they ate for breakfast today? Everything in our universe is inter-connected, and the most independent of people need the support of the greater system for their very survival.

There is, however, another side to the argument. From creation to today, no two people are exactly alike, for deep within each human soul lies a greatness that is entirely unique.

The ideal of inter-connected unity should not rob even a single person of their distinctness. Rather, the environment, be it social or even the food we eat, supports, and helps develop the individuality of each person. I support and affirm you, and you do the same for me. We each have our place in the broader system. At the same time, we each have our private and exclusive identity.

The great commentator Sforno explains that when the Jews stood at Sinai, they reached a state of complete purity. As a result, each person had their own direct connection to God — the source of all greatness. In this state, there was no need for the ‘other’ to bring out their greatness, they wore it on their sleeves.

After sinning with the Golden Calf, and subsequently receiving God’s forgiveness, the Jews faced a new reality. No longer would they have direct access to the greatness within. It now takes a village to raise a person.

The laws of Kashrut teach us to pay attention to our environment. We are not what we eat; we are not merely a product of our environment. However, to find the pathway to our inner essence, we must first traverse the world around us.

By avoiding negative foods, gossip and slander — thereby watching over our intake and output — we begin to hear the song of our soul within.

At the end of times, the world will reach a state of ultimate perfection; evil will surrender its sword of destruction, now lending a hand to build and support the good. At this time, the goodness within will shine of its own accord. No longer will it take a village. We will naturally find our way to our own source of greatness — our individualized relationship with the Divine.

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Shmuel Halpern

Shmuel Halpern

Adult Jewish education. Denver Colorado