I was reminded of so many wonderful teachings of our sage Hillel as we paid tribute to Seymour Marcuse, our almost 106 year old member who left us last month. He was proud of living by the Golden Rule. Hillel presented it differently than we are accustomed to thinking of it: “That which is hateful to you, do not to another.” It is a reminder that we may not always have the energy, time and inclination to go out and assertively do good for someone; we do however always have the capacity to refrain from doing something hurtful…and in living with self-control and discipline, we can then turn our attention to moments where our actions will make a difference for good and better.
This approach is reflected in the 613 mitzvot associated with Judaism that includes more negative than positive, 365 of the former (associated with self-control each and every day) and 248 of the latter, (associated with the number of bones and sinews in our body…that what we choose to do we do with our united being).
Another teaching of Hillel serves as an overview for how to bring out our best in the course of our lives: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And, when I am primarily focused on myself, what am I, really? And, if not now…when???”
I think of this teaching a lot these days as I appreciate the course of activity open to B’nai Israel. For the most part, as a community, our focus has been on growing and looking to attract people who like this accepting and welcoming community and choose to join its ranks.
Hillel’s teaching takes on enhanced meaning now that we are involved with a broader Solano and Napa Counties effort of linking faith communities and nonprofits in pursuit not only of each member group growing in strength (Who will be for me?) but also in seeing the benefit of not focusing on ourselves alone. The efforts of IAF begin with neighborhood home meetings that will help CBI grow in awareness of Jewish people living throughout Solano County. Then the next and accompanying step is to see what all these groups working together can do to enhance life in the county, in choosing to address imbalances that undermine the health and wellbeing of people who live in the county. I am vague as I write these words in acknowledgment that the specifics of what to do remain for the member groups to determine as they meet together and learn from one another different and broader perspectives.
The final piece of the blueprint suggests that time can easily slip away without concerted efforts to engage each other in turning good ideas into action. If not now, when?
Seymour is not the only member and friend of B’nai Israel that we lost. Lots of folks among us are struggling with regaining balance after the loss of loved ones this past month. Times such as these are opportunities to find comfort in the values we treasure in the dear ones we lost. Such reflection is conducive to considering choices we may make to bring Hillel’s teachings to life in enriching our own life journeys: that we do what we can to bring blessings alive, doing what we must to see that we are strong and capable. We are to seek ways to take our strengths and capabilities to new and higher levels in finding partners along the ways that can make life better for more people, not only in our particular orbits, but in the bigger picture of a world in need of Shalom.
May the memory of all of our dear ones energize us to turn good teachings into noble actions and great outcomes.