Monday, March 28, 2011

The Power of the Community

Our sages teach a fascinating parable: “A king was angry at his beloved friend. Because of his love, he minimized his friend’s wrongdoing.” Rashi explains that this beloved friend is the tzibbur. The Maharal explains that a tzibbur is not rendered unworthy of Hashem’s regard by sin in the same way that an individual is. One reason a tzibbur is cherished is because when they work together, they can perfect themselves with relative ease. The bigger the tzibbur, the easier the change—if there is a sincere desire and unity among them.
The Alter of Kelm, zt”l, stressed the advantage of working on one’s defects together with a tzibbur over working alone. “The foundation of working on our middos is to repair our congenital moral weaknesses. To do this, we must know the truth of how our negative traits fool and us influence our actions. Since by nature we all tend to overlook our inherent weaknesses, we are much better off working together with like minded-friends, who can offer objective views of our challenges and responses. Without friends to help us see the truth, we could easily declare a sheretz ritually pure. Left to our own devices, we can invent endless rationalizations.
“Just as Hashem imbued the world with the principle of interdependence—every person both contributes and receives from others materially—the same is true in spiritual matters. It is impossible to truly rectify our middos without help from our friends. Here in Kelm everyone works with his friend to help rectify their collective faults. I am very moved and amazed by the vast progress the students have made over time due to this seder. This is exactly what Rav Yisrael Salanter, zt”l, told us to do when we were with him in Kovno. What a pity that it took us so long to follow his instructions and develop a practical program so that we could all work together!”

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