Let’s say my name is Jim, I speak English and I happen to wear Calvin Klein shirts. Or that my name is Natasha, I speak Russian and I happen to wear ‘Zara’. Do any of these practices constitute a transgression of Torah or any paragraph in the Shulchan Aruch? No, they do not. Why then, of all things, did we merit being redeemed from Egypt for “not changing our language, our names and our dress”?

the_fool_on_the_hill_by_margof-d4nh7uk

The reason is found in the question of the ‘evil son” – “What is this service of yours?” The Hagadah answers harshly – “because he excluded himself from the community he is a Kofer (heretic)” and should be notified that “if he had been there he wouldn’t have been redeemed”. It does not say that “because he does not participate in ‘this service’” he is a Kofer (heretic), denoting that it is a matter of observance, rather, the mere fact that he ‘excluded himself from the community’- denoting that it is a matter of association – makes him a Kofer.

Why would this be? What big merit is there in “just” being part of the community?

The two points should be seen as one: it wasn’t individuals being redeemed from Egypt, rather a collective – Am Yisrael, which ‘happens’ to include many individuals. The collective identity of the Jewish People at the time was comprised of the basic elements of national identity – language, names and dress but because they comprised our collective identity – they were so significant that they accounted for our meriting to be delivered from bondage to freedom.
Our communal identity is not a collection of the actions that many individuals may or may not do. Our communal identity is based on those things that maintain and identify us as a collective.he merit for redemption, as they were what made us a collective.

As the redemption of our generations continues to unfold, it is clear that what comprises our communal identity as a people today – beyond the observances (or lack thereof!) of individuals – is the State of Israel and its sovereign branches. That is the ‘body’ through which the Jewish People, as a whole, act and engage the world. Let us recognize this and strengthen our inclusion and commitment to the community of Am Yisrael – the land and State of Israel, Israeli economy and society, and let that infuse Am Yisrael with faith in the redemptive process and the divine destiny it carries with it.

Israeli Ultra Orthodox Leadership

Israeli Ultra Orthodox Leadership

And to our (still) brothers who choose to distinguish and separate themselves from the collective of Am Yisrael (in Israel and abroad) – beware the plague of self exclusion from the community of Am Yisrael, lest you be left behind in darkness, again.