Over the past ten years, our community’s focus on continuity has led to a growing interest in Jewish spirituality. This has not been limited to a desire for more intensity and passion in synagogue services, but a quest for the transcendent in all areas of life. Could there be more to giving and community involvement than the emergence of our “inner mentsch”?
In a famous biblical story, the Almighty’s presence came to comfort and visit with Abraham after his circumcision. Spying some desert travelers, Abraham “puts G-d on hold” and runs to offer his hospitality to the three strangers.
If developing intimacy with G-d is the ultimate spiritual activity – why would Abraham give priority to being a “nice guy”? He understood that “hanging out” with G-d was one thing – but acting G-dly himself was even higher.
An ancient rabbinic teaching relates that Chanoch, who lived in the 8th generation after Adam, achieved the highest mystical levels working as a shoemaker. Rabbi Yisroel Salanter explained that he didn’t do this by praying and meditating as he worked, as this would have been a breach of ethical responsibility to his clients. Rather, he was able to achieve union with G-d by putting all his effort into each stitch. He strove to make shoes of the highest quality that would give maximum use and pleasure to their owners. G-d only gives us the best and Chanoch desired to make shoes as G-d would.
There is no greater closeness with G-d than transforming ourselves to act as G-d acts. When this consciousness informs our charitable giving and community involvement, we are not just helping others – we are connecting with the Almighty and with the essence of who we really are.