Do You Have an Answer?

As part of the Jewish People, I ought to…

When we walked into our room this morning, Rabbi Michael Marmur, our presenter this morning, had written this question on the board. We looked at a few texts about what the Jewish people is/are and what the purpose of Jewish peoplehood might be, but that was all to prompt us think about answering this question. Of course, this is not a question with a limited answer. One may be able to respond with 1, 10, 613, 4, 7, or any other number of answers.

As we started to list responses on the board- to Live Jewishly, to have a relationship to Israel, to seek to understand God- I came to the conclusion that really any answer which addresses an aspect of the Jewish tradition is a valid one. That puzzled me. It is a great question, one that makes us think about who we are and what our purpose for being and for being Jewish is. But, with such a wide range of answers, what do we do with all of them?

I raised this question to Dan Pekarsky, one of our faculty members. We got into a great discussion, and to help me frame my concern, he asked me another great question. He told me to think of my tallit, and more specifically of the four tzitziot, four fringes that hang from each corner. We wear them as a reminder of the mitzvot. The combination of knots and strings, when counted and added a certain way, add up to 613, the number of mitzvot found in the Torah. Thus, they are a physical representation of the mitzvot, one understanding of what our job as Jews is.

So, Dan told me that, to help narrow his thinking into something more understandable and relatable, he tries to identify four principles that reflect the essence of the Jewish tradition that he finds most compelling. It’s not that those principles are more important than any of the others, they are just what, to him, are what motivate him the most.

As a corollary to the question raised above, What are your four tzitziot?


About Greg Weisman

Rabbinical Student at the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles Rabbinic Intern at Congregation Kol Ami Teaching Assistant at the University of Southern California Husband, son, brother, dog owner, sports fan View all posts by Greg Weisman

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