What Peoplehood Means
[This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 13 – Jewish Peoplehood: What does it mean? Why is it important? How do we nurture it? – published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.]
By Shuki Taylor
There are three points that jointly encompass the ideal of Jewish Peoplehood:
Before entering Israel, the Jewish People entered a covenant with G-D. In describing the staging of this covenant, the Torah says “Atem Nitzavim Hayom Kulchem” – “You are all standing here today – all of you.” The covenant is made only when there is full presence, when people – from all backgrounds – bring themselves fully.
In order to enter the covenant of Judaism – of our relationship with G-D, with our land, our values, our heritage and our people – there is a prerequisite that every single one of us be present.
This presence is the essence of Jewish Peoplehood. It requires an internal and external observation: Internal – am I here? Am I fully present? External – is everyone else here? Is there anyone I am excluding or not noticing?
Making space for full presence requires of educators and communal leaders to ensure a continued stream of authenticity and renewal and to simultaneously make space for others to do the same.
Can there be space for all of us?
To reach a state of Peoplehood, we need to ask ourselves these questions personally, professionally, communally and nationally.
When building one of the greatest physical manifestations of the Jewish People – the Mishkan – the Jewish People are commanded to contribute according to their own measure: “Kol Ish Asher Ydevenu Libo” – “From every person whose heart inspires him to generosity.”
True giving cannot be void of introspection: how does my heart inspire me to generosity? What can I contribute which will reflect my heart’s generosity?
We’re also called to make space for our peers to undergo this process of introspection, while having an Ayin Tova – a generous eye and favorable judgment: My peer should never give what I think she should give. She should give what she thinks she can and should give, and it is my responsibility to celebrate that.
Creating a culture of contribution requires of educators and communal create spaces of self-introspection, gratitude and talent development.
To reach a state of Peoplehood, we need to listen to and follow the generosity of our hearts, and to generously accept the generosity of others.
Most difficult of these ideas is that of receiving, which can be extremely challenging. Why is this so? In order to receive, I need to come to terms with that which I am lacking – my weaknesses, my needs, and my faults. Upon coming to terms with them, I still need to make space for someone else to complete me – to better me.
This type of receiving is what makes us most human. The ability to be vulnerable, weak and in need – requires trust. Trusting myself, trusting my community and trusting my people. Can educators and communal leaders create spaces in which we trust people to succeed – to be strong – and, more importantly, to fail and be weak?
To reach the highest level of Peoplehood we need to discover our weaknesses and challenges – those that make us incomplete. In discovering them, we invite members of our people to complete us – to help us towards a place of wholeness. And as a result we will become fully present to enter the covenant of Jewish Peoplehood.
Shuki Taylor is Director of Experiential Jewish Education at Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and three children.
This essay is from The Peoplehood Papers, volume 13 – Jewish Peoplehood: What does it mean? Why is it important? How do we nurture it? – published by the Center for Jewish Peoplehood Education.