Dear B’nai Shalom members, families, and friends:
“One for All and All for One”
The title of this bulletin article is not an expression unique to the Three Musketeers alone. It is a description of the principle and ideal for which Judaism strives at all times and in all of its expectations for our people.
We find a parallel, well-known sentiment in the Book of Psalms which has been repeated for generations in poetry, prose, prayer, and particularly in song. In Chapter 133 of Psalms, the first verse, we are told, “Hinei mah tov umah naim shevet achim gam yachad” — “How good and how pleasant it is when we sit down together as brethren.” There is also a well-known but often ignored mitzvah, commandment, in the Torah of “Ahavat Yisrael” – the unconditional love of each Jew for his/her fellow Jews.
Often we find ourselves separated and at odds with other Jews based on religious beliefs or practices, synagogue or school affiliations, customs and traditions near and dear to us, or even our birthplaces or places of national origin. When we find immediate fault with one another or find the flow of venomous resentment rapidly rising within ourselves at gatherings of Jews for religious or even social occasions, there is hardly any “goodness or pleasantness” being spread over the “People of the Book” at that time.
Thankfully, the B’nai Shalom family and the way it shows itself to its members, guests, and visitors, have been sterling examples of warmth, kindness, and true camaraderie in saturating joy and high regard for one another. This has been demonstrated consistently since my wife, Robin, and I have had the pleasure of being part of the B’nai Shalom family. What a glowing illustration of how Jews can, should, and DO get along while making everyone around them feel comfortable and at home!
I am reminded of two edicts directed at the Nation of Israel, our people, from the “Ethics of the Fathers.” They come, certainly non-coincidentally, from one of the most famous rabbinical Torah study partners in our tradition: Hillel and Shammai. Hillel in Chapter one, Mishnah 12 tells us that we “need to be among the disciples of Aaron (brother of Moses), loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them (in this manner), closer to Torah.” Hillel’s intellectual and Torah study “sparring partner”, Shammai, is in atypical, perfect agreement with Hillel in this sentiment as he declares in Chapter one, Mishnah 15, “Receive everyone with a cheerful countenance.”
Within the warm, inviting atmosphere of the synagogue, there is nothing less than full and sincere compliance with these instructions, resulting in no drop-off from what the Torah has commanded us in this regard. To the credit of the synagogue members and participants, even if they are not familiar with “Ethics of the Fathers”, an environment of kindness, pleasantness, and genuine concern for one another has been instinctively displayed naturally and automatically! It is something that just comes to the synagogue’s considerate and helpful members and participants as a normal and wonderful way of greeting and treating others.
In this way, a consistently loving “welcome sign” is created for everyone entering this very special place of gathering known as B’nai Shalom.
I am hardly suggesting that at each and every prayer service, the classic refrain of “Hinei Mah Tov…” be recited. There is no need for that. The actual ACT of brethren sitting down together with goodness and pleasantness is already taking place. The warmth being generated by the remarkable membership of Congregation Bnai Shalom is fully, and in the best possible way, fulfilling the spirit and the letter of Jews being tolerant of each other and people being kind and good to each other.
May Jews and synagogues EVERYWHERE learn from B’nai Shalom’s exemplary adherence to true Ahavat Yisrael — unconditional love of each Jew for his/her fellow Jews, and its inspirational discharging of faithfully being, “One for All and All for One.”
B’shalom and with Hashem’s blessings for all,
Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Dvorin