In this week’s Torah portion, God instructs Moses to make two silver trumpets that will be blown to “summon the congregation and announce the departure of the camps.” These trumpets had dual purposes: to gather and mobilize. In war, they were a call to action and defense. On holidays and festivals, a call to celebrate and rejoice.
Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik links the dual nature of the trumpets to the dual nature of the Jewish community. He notes that there are two different words used to describe the community because there are two different ways that groups form as communities, societies, or nations.
A machane (camp), is bound together by a shared history, a common enemy, the need for protection, and the unifying motivation to survive. An edah (congregation), includes the Hebrew word for "witness" and forms around shared values and ideals for a better future. If machane is a more defensive community, then edah is a more creative, aspirational one.
There are times of crisis and threat, when we need to sound the trumpets of battle and survival, calling our community together in strength and resistance to remind ourselves and the world: We’re not going anywhere. But our drive to survive is not about survival alone. We need the trumpets of celebration and aspiration to remind us of our highest ideals and of the vision of the future that we must create together.
These two aspects of community resonated with me this week as I had powerful experiences of both.
On Monday afternoon, CJP partnered with the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Community Relations Council to host a virtual briefing in the face of the latest, vile act of aggression toward the Jewish community known as the “mapping project.” With gratitude to our colleagues in the Jewish community and law enforcement, close to 1,000 people attended this gathering. Over the past week, we have seen communal leaders and allies from across the political spectrum – as well as newspaper articles and editorials – condemn and explain the danger of this “project,” and the FBI is investigating the site and its creators. CJP’s Communal Security Initiative and our partners will continue to do everything we can to help keep our community safe and secure.
After a week of mobilizing our machane, last night I joined hundreds of people at the 2Life Communities gala, coming together as an edah. 2Life, along with other Jewish senior living communities in Greater Boston, enable our community to fulfill one of our sacred responsibilities: to ensure that the older members of our community not only will have roofs over their heads, but will be able to age with dignity and a continued sense of meaning and purpose in their lives. We heard from CEO Amy Schectman about how the arts are enriching the lives of 2Life residents, and we learned how aging in community can physically, emotionally, and spiritually bring individuals back to life. For me, this gala was a moving and life-affirming bookend to an intense week.
A thriving, vibrant community includes machane and edah, where we blast both types of trumpets. I am so grateful to be part of a community that feels bound and called together to sustain and create healthy, safe, and secure communities of belonging, purpose, justice, and joy.
Rabbi Marc Baker
About the Author
CJP President and CEO Rabbi Marc Baker is an educator, writer, and leadership mentor who is devoting his life to Jewish learning and building Jewish communities.