Improving the world means widening our circles of care

Our Common Destiny Project: Taking responsibility for one another

David and Shlomo: A volunteer from Latet, and one of the Aid for Life beneficiaries (photo credit: Courtesy)
David and Shlomo: A volunteer from Latet, and one of the Aid for Life beneficiaries
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Values come in clusters, and you cannot choose one without influencing others.  Sometimes honesty blunts ambition, or achievement impairs intimacy.  Since each of the values named is important, my choice is for the one that I believe will have the greatest effect overall in lifting the others: Taking responsibility for one another. 
Responsibility implies care, not criticism.  When you are responsible for someone you may certainly disapprove of this or that, but primarily, your job is to take care of them, encourage and support them.  If Jews all over the world really did that, they would certainly strengthen Jewish identity.  You increase family pride by mutual aid.  Such care would improve the security of Jews world wide and in Israel, because central to mutual aid is ensuring all are safe.  
Paradoxically, I believe the universalism implied by the final two values would also be advanced by taking responsibility for one another.  Being a light to others means modeling behavior – treating other people as ends and not means.  When we are children and visit families whose conduct is admirable we return home with different standards for our own families.  If Israel was a place where all citizens were taken care of and Jews around the world worked to make sure that Jews in impoverished countries were safe and fed, would that not advance our claim to being a light among the nations? 
Finally, to improve the world means widening circles of care.  We begin with those who are closest.  But even for those Jews whose first concern is outside of the Jewish community, embracing Jews means we support them as well.  I give to AJWS and Jewish World Watch, organizations that help beleaguered people all over the world, because they are Jewish, and the way that I show care for Jews and for my tradition is giving it the power to reach out beyond its own borders.   
Rabbi David Wolpe (Credit: Facebook)Rabbi David Wolpe (Credit: Facebook)
Our age is one in which Jews are busily disqualifying others Jews on religious and political grounds.  I would rather follow the poetic advice of Edwin Markham:  

“He drew a circle that shut me out-

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle and took him In!” 

Let’s draw our circles as we do before the chuppah and take one another in. 


David Wolpe is the rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California and was named one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by The Jerusalem Post.