I trust you and your families enjoyed some special time celebrating Pesach and relaxing during the term break.
The day before Term 2 commenced was ANZAC Day.
We honour and remember those who fought and sacrificed so that our society, our values of democracy, freedom, dignity, and human rights, can be the way they are. Not just here in Australia and New Zealand, but all around the world.
The ANZACs inspire in us many positive attributes and values. This year, we want to focus on the concept of community and the value of respect.
Community fills an integral gap. At the micro level we have ‘family’, our immediate or extended family. At the macro level, there is ‘government’, that controls/runs our country. Everything in between ‘family’ and ‘government’ needs to be filled by something; we call that in-between concept ‘community’. In fact, the strength and sustainability of a society can be judged by the extent of its community infrastructure. In Hebrew, community is the kehillah, and outside of family, it is the centre of life. It is the responsibility of the community to establish schools, courts, access to medical care, places of worship, shops, commerce, welfare societies, charities, chesed, facilities to take care of the young and old, as well as to look after the infirm. Community is about looking out for and looking after each other. Community keeps us connected. Community is the medium that transforms us from a bunch of individuals who progress in parallel through our lives, to a cohesive collective, a group of people who work together for a common greater good.
Respect is a value that is easy to practice when the person you are respecting thinks like you, agrees with you, and is very much like you. But what if they’re different? That is when we need kavod (a core Moriah value) to tap into our reservoir of respect for all, as they are in the image of Hashem. When you respect somebody who is different to you, when you sense and appreciate their story, their history, their experiences, their culture, their strengths and beliefs, you are enriched by respecting them, and they in turn are reciprocally enriched by you. And besides, it feels so good to be respected and give respect.
Making it practical
So today, as we commence Term 2 2022, the day after ANZAC Day, just like the motto of our school ‘Lilmod Lishmor v’La-asot – To Learn, To Heed, and To Act’, we need to act, to translate these words into deeds.
I would like to suggest one simple thing. To build a connected community, to practice empathetic and enriching respect, let’s do something small, simple and impactful. Let us commit that when we walk around, instead of having our eyes glued in a downwards angle staring at an inanimate screen, let’s lift our eyes to be level. Let’s intentionally notice and gaze into the eyes of the people who pass by us throughout our lives, at home, school, leisure, or work. Sense and see the other person. Give them respect by empathising and connecting. This in turn will create a stronger community and will strengthen the very fabric of society.
This is a poignant small takeaway from ANZAC Day for Term 2.
About the Author
Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler is the College Principal at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.