Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Two-Minute Torah: Jewish Geography

In this week's Torah portion, Va-Yeitzei, Jacob leaves Beersheva and heads

north towards Haran, in Mesopotamia (today's Iraq) to find a wife. As he

gets closer to his destination he meets some shepherds and asks them if they

know Laban the son of Nahor, Jacob's uncle. They reply that they do indeed

know him and tell him some of what's going on with the family.

This may be the first example of "Jewish geography." I once heard someone

state that any two Jews in the world know a third Jew in common, and I have

not yet seen this assertion proven false. It may take you ten or fifteen

minutes but sooner or later, if you meet another Jewish person, you can come

up with someone that you both know. As an example of how Jewish geography

works, two of the members of Kehilat Shalom were active participants in different Hillel Foundations 

which I directed, one at the University of Virginia and one at American University. A past president of 

Kehilat Shalom has a cousin who is married to my cousin. Several members have parents, cousins, 

or sibling whom I know in one way or the other. There is really a sense that we are all one, big, 

extended family.

I think that this sense of community is one of our great strengths. I am

pretty certain that anywhere I go, if I don't know someone, someone else I

know does. If I need advice or get in trouble, I know there is someone I can

call on who will help me out, even if they don't know me, because of a

mutual friend. Despite our disagreements over politics, religious practice,

and everything else under the sun, we still remain one family.

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