Harry Zeitlin
Grateful Every Day, Modeh Ani Lefanecha!

Global/tribal/universal: Either/or or all three at once

I’m not much of a joiner. I guess I value my privacy, or I’m just shy. I see myself pretty much as a hermit, although a gregarious one. Can these seeming opposites coexist in one body/one soul?

Likewise, today in much of the western world there is a goal of globalism that disdains what it judges to be “primitive” tribalism. On the other hand, a large, perhaps the majority, of the world primarily identifies with its tribe, and often look at alliances with other “tribes” as temporary and strategic. Is globalism indeed advanced and progressive (used as an adjective, not a political position), ideal or is it a type of colonialism, the elite attempting to impose their world view on everyone else, dressed up with pretty words?

Perplexing to some who know me, or, at least, acquainted with me, I recently returned to Israel, the focus of my own “tribe” just a few years ago after a long absence, at an age many people begin to contemplate retirement instead. Ironically, I moved here alone, in a manner dragging my individual tribalism into the global expression of that “tribe”.

All that being said, I don’t feel I’m living an unresolvable contradiction, but for the first time, perhaps, in my life, I feel integrated with my surroundings.

The Ishbitzer in Mei HaShiloach for this week’s parsha, Bamidbar, focuses on the opening pasukim and points out that the word שאו, s’u, instructing Moshe to initiate a census of the Jewish people, to count, is closely related to the word נשיא, Nasi, which means prince (also, president). There’s an element of elevating, not merely counting.

To be counted as a member of B’nei Yisrael, the Jewish people, is to be ennobled. In fact, it’s to be raised up, both as an individual soul and as part of a collective, to be incorporated into the Divinity of The Creator Himself. As the Ishbitzer puts it, a number (as opposed to merely a total) in which each individual number is important on its own. Being a member of the tribe rather than just a faceless component. God, in His immensity, is able to contain the individuality of each soul.

Each of us is a distinct portion of the whole, we’re each one of the “measures” of God. The word he chose for “measure” is מדה, Middah, which is also used to refer to the individual sephirot. Coming to the end of the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuot, the seven weeks we “count the Omer“, many of us relate each day to a unique combination of sefirot or middot. These middot are a way we map The Creator (as it were, of course we can never “map” God) onto His Creation, the universe itself (there is even a meditation after we count where we explicitly pray to repair, l’takeyn, each of these measurements/dimensions,middot). Which brings our journey from individuals to members of Bnei Yisrael, the tribe, to the ultimate Global itself.

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem.

About the Author
After almost 30 years, Harry Zeitlin returned home to Jerusalem! Growing up in Denver, CO, he began Torah studies at an early age. He also had the privilege of knowing and studying with Rabbi Shloime Twerski zt"l. He graduated from Yale College (BA 1974) with an independent degree in communications, theory-and-practice, focusing on filmmaking and linguistics. Harry had a 45+ year career as a professional artist (photography, to which he is just now returning!) and has played guitar for more than 50 years, in addition to his 30+ years as an orthodox rabbi teaching Torah across the denominational spectrum. He lived in Israel from 1982 - 1989 and returned in 2016. I'M BACK! Grateful every day! Follow his spiritual adventures. He is always available to speak, teach, present a Shabbaton or other workshop. ......or to serenade your group with his guitar.
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