Everyone Is Precious

Sefer Aggadah teaches, “Man was created alone in order to teach that if anyone causes a single soul to perish from Israel it is as if that person has caused the destruction of the entire world and if anyone saves a single soul in Israel it is as if that person has saved the entire world. Every human soul is precious. On Yom Kippur I shared seven Jewish values that not only supports this perspective but calls us to behave respectfully to every human-being.  These values are particularly beneficial with respect to our personal interactions within synagogue. Here are the seven:

  • Kavod: Respect: Judaism teaches us to treat ourselves and others with respect. Even the stranger is to be treated with respect. Kavod is a feeling of regard for the rights, dignity, feelings, wishes and abilities of others.
  • Shalom Bayit: Peace In The Home: Our synagogue with its committees, school, youth group and auxiliary organizations such as Sisterhood and Brotherhood are often called our second home. Everyone needs to feel comfortable, safe, welcome and respected. We should never ostracize those who seem different. We should strive to settle disagreements in peaceful and respectful ways that allow community members to maintain their dignity.
  • B’Tzelem Elohim: In God’s Image: The Torah tells us that we are all creating in the image of God. This is a simple and profound idea that should guide our interactions with all people. We do not know the image of God except as it is reflected in the different types of people we encounter in the world. If we can remember that each of us, no matter how different, is created in God’s image. This idea can enable us to find the connection we have with one another and to help create truly inclusive communities.
  • Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Bazeh: Communal Responsibility: The Jewish principle that “all Israel is responsible for one another.” This means it is our responsibility to stand up for each other, especially for those who are vulnerable and cannot speak for themselves. It also means that community may come before self.
  • Shmirat Halashon: Guarding One’s Tongue From Hurtful Speak: The Talmud warns us that we must take care of how we use language. Talking about others behind their backs, even if what we are saying is true, is prohibited. The guidelines for Shmirat Halashon remind us that what we say about others affects them in ways we can never predict. Words can hurt or heal depending on how we use them.
  • V’ahavtah L’Reiecha Kamocha: Love Your Neighbor as Yourself: Commenting on Leviticus 19:19 Rabbi Hillel once stated that this was a foundational value of the Torah. It begins with loving ourselves. We love and accept our whole selves and in doing so create the capacity for extending that love and acceptance to others.
  • Al Tifrosh Min Hatsibur: Isolation: Don’t separate yourself from the community. Find ways to be involved in the community by finding like-minded people with whom you can talk. If you know someone who is feeling isolated reach out and be a friend and ally.

The world can be cold and harsh. Yet this is not what God and Judaism endorse. Mishnah reminds us that when you live in a place that is unfriendly even uncivilized-you must be civilized. And surely this world could use a bit more civility.

In Peace, Rabbi