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    Deciding for yourself – Vayyera

    Hineni – “Here I am” – is the name of an organisation created by the famous Rebbetzin Jungreis with the aim of showing a personal commitment to Judaism and the Jewish future.

    The name Hineni comes from the response of Abraham when God called on him to go onto the mountain (Gen. 22:1).

    Rashi quotes the rabbinic comment that Hineni is the way the righteous respond to God with humility and willingness.

    Being a tzaddik, Abraham would naturally say Hineni. But if someone is not such a tzaddik, they might react in a different way and insist on making their own decisions, choosing to do what was right in their own eyes, to which the Torah does not take too kindly (Deut. 12:8).

    Being a law unto yourself may be an expression of autonomy and individualism, but it can gravely endanger society. Detach yourself from accepted norms and standards and do only what you yourself fancy, and you risk causing chaos for civilisation.

    This is so axiomatic in Jewish thinking that for all our obvious dedication to the dignity of the individual we cannot possibly approve of people always doing their own thing.

    There is also a danger in people excluding themselves from the community.

    Judaism emphasises the importance of both the individual and the community. But when the community needs the individual, everyone must be there to be counted and counted on.

    If the minyan needs you and you decline to be the tenth man, the sages say you are a bad neighbour.

    If you have a talent which you refuse to make available to society, you are like the bottle of scent to which the Midrash refers when it says that one should be Abraham, who shared his insights with the world, and not like the person who says, “I am keeping my bottle of scent to myself”.

    A practical illustration of the problem is those in a community who do not affiliate to a congregation, give nothing either in money or involvement towards the maintenance of community services, and then expect that the rabbis and facilities of the congregation will automatically be made available to them when needed.

    Example: “I came to the synagogue on Kol Nidrei night and they would not let me in because I wasn’t a member”… If everyone decided not to be a member there would be no synagogue or service.

    Example: “My family do not belong to a shule, but why was it so hard to find a minister to conduct my relative’s funeral?”… Ministers do their best if they have time, but their first priority is their own congregants.

    Certainly, if there are financial problems and someone simply cannot afford membership fees every assistance is given without question – but what about those who can afford to belong and do not bother, relying on the kindly nature of the rabbi/minister/congregation when needed?

    Fair is fair!

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