In the 18th century, a new concept revolutionised how we think of ourselves in relation to the world we live in. It was called Individualism. Throughout history, man had thought of himself in a collective sense; he was part of a society and fulfilled necessary roles within it. Whether a leader or a serf, the concept of ‘I’ was something foreign. Life was a series of responsibilities rather than rights. You had to know your place within the world in order to survive.

‘Meaning’ and ‘purpose’ weren’t part of the vernacular. ‘Boredom’ hadn’t been invented and ‘time to ponder life’ was an unaffordable luxury. All that changed with the Age of Enlightenment. Suddenly, man was encouraged to pursue self-expression and define his personal truth. He became indulgent, lusting after material luxuries for his sensual needs as well as inebriating himself with philosophies of meaning and purpose. Finally man asked, “What should I be doing with my life? What gives me purpose? What makes me happy?”

Judaism jostles between these two extremes – acknowledging the value of the individual on one hand, but seeing him as an integral part of the broader society on the other. The Torah sees man as a unique, divine messenger, but at the same time his individuality is subsumed for the sake of the ‘klal’, the nation.

Modern man has gone wrong by placing himself at the epicentre of the world, by asking “What makes me happy/fulfilled?” rather than “How can I uniquely contribute to the betterment of the world?” Jewish dancing is always circular. We need to step out of the centre of the circle and dance around its edges. We need to move ourselves out of the epicentre of our universe to the circumference. It is only there that we can appreciate its vastness, as well as see others dancing alongside us.

If we are to ingrain the next generation with Jewish values, we have to move away from trying to convince people that “there is something in it for them”. The world has more to offer than the Torah ever can, but Judaism gives you an opportunity to be a part of something greater than yourself.

Judaism isn’t about you!

Shabbat isn’t about you!