It’s All About Community

 

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Justin Goldstein

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A d'var torah about the importance of community infrastructure. Originally distributed on the Hazon CSA listserve.

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It’s All About Community
by Justin Goldstein, Hazon Rabbinic Fellow

Typically, communal infrastructure is paid for and sustained by the community.  In contemporary societies, this is most often done through the levying of taxes which are then allocated to various resources--roads, municipal buildings, schools, libraries and so forth. We also hear stories of communities binding together in response to crises or tragedies such as tornadoes, floods or hurricanes. In the face of adversity, communities often rise to the occasion to support one another emotionally, spiritually, physically and financially.

As the Israelites wandered through the desert, community was established in response to the trauma of servitude and the experience of fleeing Egypt.  In this week’s Torah portion, parashat Pekudei, we learn of the construction of the mishkan (the portable sanctuary carried through the desert), priestly vestments and the sanctified objects used by the High Priest. The mishkan itself and all of the elements therein were made from materials donated by the community and crafted by members of the community.  Regarding the Breastpiece of Judgment, the bejeweled garment worn by the High Priest during ritual sacrifice, it is written: “And the stones were according to the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, every one according to their name, for the twelve tribes.” (Ex. 39:14)

In this way, the whole community is represented in this essential communal infrastructure.  While the High Priest, alone, enters the heart of the Sanctuary to offer ritual sacrifices, he brings with him the entire people to perform his duties. Just as the mishkan is constructed of communally donated materials, it is likewise sustained not only by the physical donations of the people, but also by the spiritual presence of the people.

Community Supported Agriculture is not so different.  In reaction to the problematic state of large-scale and industrialized food production, communities bind together to support one another is providing access to safe, affordable, local and organic foods.  By doing so, we expand our commitment to our own localized communities, and even to the global community at large.  Just as the High Priest symbolically brought the people with him into the Sanctuary, by supporting local farmers in our communities we create a relationship whereby we are brought symbolically into the fields, and we symbolically bring the farmers into our kitchens and dining rooms.

May we continue to grow and deepen our communal responsibility and our commitments to one another and the greater world.
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