What are the 'mitzvot of peoplehood'? What can we all do?
Will future generations say we were as creative as our recent forebears?
Photo: Hagai Aharon
I’m a member of the Jewish People. So what should I do when I wake up in the morning?Einat Wilf is a member of KolDor (www.koldor.org), a worldwide network of young Jews dedicated to rethinking the Jewish world from a global perspective, and serves as foreign policy advisor for Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres
If I’m a religious Jew, there are quite a few mitzvot I must fulfill. If I’m a Zionist Jew, I should definitely support Israel (these days it often is a full-time job).
If I happen to live in Israel, I probably don’t think about it much. Perhaps I even find the question odd – living in Israel should be good enough.
But what if I don’t live in Israel? What if religious observance is not my thing? What if I want there to be more to my being Jewish than just that? Is there any meaningful content that belongs in my life by virtue of my being a member of the Jewish People?
Free from the Israeli-Diaspora division
Peoplehood - the instinctive feeling that one is a member of one Jewish People present around the world - is emerging as the new Jewish identity for the global age. It is a new space that offers us the promise of living and belonging as Jews freed from the stifling divisions between Orthodox and Secular, Reform and Conservative.
It is a space free from the judgment-loaded division between Israel and Diaspora. It is a space for Jews living in age when identities are chosen, lives are made, and distance is dead.
But if Peoplehood is to become the Jewish Holy Grail of identity for our age, it must emerge as an effective source of meaning and guidance in our lives.
It must have content and depth. It must go beyond who we are, to become what we must do. It must say something about how to lead a good life in this world at this time.
We all need guidance and structure in our lives. It is our human need. But when traditional guidance is no longer relevant and old structures fail, we search for new ones. If we’re truly blessed, we not only find them, we create them.
A restless nation of innovators
So this is our great opportunity - to create new movements, institutions and ideas that will provide Jews around the world with structure and guidance suited for a global age.
It is our chance to harness the awesome power of science, technology, instant communications and cheap transportation to be one people, undivided, in a quest to fathom what it means to be human and moral in our time.
What are the mitzvot of Peoplehood? What should we do as members of the Jewish People when we wake up in the morning? What does it mean to be a good Jew in our time? Answer this question, and you square the circle of our generation.
We are a restless nation of innovators. Several generations ago, Jews in Europe asked themselves - how do we confront modernity? How do we answer the challenges of Enlightenment?
In their frantic search for an answer these Jews unleashed a wave of innovation and invention. They gave birth to new ideas, movements and practices that sustain the lives of Jews around the world to this day.
Several generations later Jews asked themselves how to confront the questions of Jewish statehood, sovereignty and nationhood. They too - Zionist thinkers and leaders - pioneered new institutions, practices, and ideas that govern the lives of Jews in Israel and around the world to this day.
It is a remarkable thing: Jewish innovators trying to confront the challenges of their age by creating new ways of being Jewish, without which we would not know how to be Jewish today.
Will future generations say the same about us? The time calls upon us again to invent and innovate, to give form and function to Jewish Peoplehood and to answer the challenge of a global age.
So here it is, the question before us: what are the mitzvot of Peoplehood? What should we all do as Jews, no matter where we live and how religiously observant we are?
Let’s dare to dream far and high. Let’s open it up for all of us to think about. Let’s write and put forth proposals – crazy, big, bold. Let’s start the conversation. I want to know what you’re thinking. Please write back.
Respond to Einat Wilf’s challenging call for proposals for the “mitzvot of Jewish Peoplehood” by responding below, in Talkback, or by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org or via Red Email.