Before you think that there was a typographical error in the name of this article, please understand that there was no mistake at all. I am going to help you GAIN weight… around 900 million pounds by Rosh Hashanah… seriously! Since that is a lot of weight and Rosh Hashanah is just 4 weeks away, we better get started right away.
My weight gaining program begins with the acknowledgement that the Jew of today is much different than the Jew of 100 years ago. In no way at all am I referring to technology or modern conveniences since those things don’t interest me. After all, don’t fool yourself into thinking how advanced you are since in a few short years every one of your gadgets will be outdated and totally useless. I am referring to something far greater than that and it’s called… The Rebirth of the Jewish Nation!
In 1916 – and even in 1926, ’36 and ’46 – the Jew was either totally alone or part of his/her local community. The communities (also called “kehillot”) served a very special purpose and their contribution to Jewish life was priceless but they had one major problem. Each kehilla was an independent entity and was totally disconnected to the kehilla in the bordering town. In many cases, even within the same city, there sprung up different and often opposing kehillot. Each Jew struggled to find himself a place in a kehilla where he could pray, teach his children and bond with like-minded Jews. (Funny, that sounds like what is happening today…)
The Jewish communities of 80, 90 and 100 years ago were actually a result of the exile from Israel some 2,000 years before. Prior to the exile we had the Bet Hamikdash (Holy Temple in Jerusalem), yes, but it’s what we didn’t have that I want to focus on. We didn’t have different styles of prayer. We didn’t look differently and we certainly didn’t have different customs where 5 Jews appeared to be following 5 different religions.
And do you know why? Because we were not individual Jews and we certainly were not broken into communities. We were one nation, under G-d, indivisible… sounds familiar? That used to be the Jews!!! We were known as the Jewish NATION, not the Chabad community or the Syrian community or the Lakewood kehilla etc… All Jews formed one solid block called Am Yisrael – the Nation of Israel. We had the Sanhedrin and the Davidic dynasty. We lived in Israel and came together – men, women and children – three times a year where we watched our brothers; the Kohanim and Levi’im, perform their sacred tasks. We were really and truly B’nei Yisrael.
And then came the galut; the exile. Because of our sins we were thrown out of Israel and dispersed throughout the world. The concept of “Am Yisrael” was put on hold and we became the Jews of Poland, the Jews of Spain and the Jews of Turkey. All of a sudden, terms like Ashkenazic, Sefardic and Chassidic entered the Jewish lexicon. Some of us waited 6 hours after meat while others were lucky enough to wait just one. Some Jews ate rice on Pesach while others did not. Our shofars looked different and our praying varied so greatly that if you ended up in the wrong synagogue, you didn’t know what to do!
This was the greatest punishment of the exile… that it broke apart our people so badly, we lost the concept of what a nation truly was. We focused our energy on ourselves and our “shtetl.” We built shuls, mikvas, yeshivas and chessed institutions (which followed our local customs, of course) and by doing so, we buried the dream of ever uniting and reawakening the giant called “Am Yisrael.”
This behavior continued for 2,000 years, soaring right into the 20th century. As stated previously, the Jews of 1916, ‘26, ’36 and ’46 kept this going. Even as we experienced unspeakable horrors, we wept for the loss of our community. Oy, how we lost the great Jewish communities of Hungary and Poland. How terrible was the suffering of the Jews of Spain, Worms and Greece. It was always about the kehilla…
And then a miracle, unprecedented in Jewish history! In 1948, still beaten and bruised from the inferno in Europe, came the rebirth of that concept that had been lost. The Jewish people, limping and bleeding, were given a gift from our Father in heaven… the return of Am Yisrael! The formation of the State of Israel was not simply a new country in the world… it was the fulfillment of a promise that Hashem would not abandon us forever. After all these years, He brought us back to our land and reignited the flame that had been extinguished, the flame of the Jewish Nation!
This is what is different today from 100 years ago. Today we are a nation! Baruch Hashem! Our job is now very straightforward: We must connect ourselves to that nation and no longer stay in our little comfort zone. Jewish history is being written today in Jerusalem and we must open our eyes to the gift we have received!
Rosh Hashanah is just 4 weeks away and people are getting ready with Teshuva, Tefilla and Tzedaka – all important and vital things, but I want more! I want you to turn the words of this article into reality. Everyone reading this article needs to gain weight… the weight of the Jewish Nation must be added to you immediately! With approximately 6,000,000 Jews living in Israel (interesting number) at an average weight of 150 lbs, this means that there’s 900 million lbs of the Jewish nation waiting to be added to you right now… and it’ll make you look great!
You must add that weight before coming to the King of Kings on Rosh Hashanah. The days of coming as “Shloime the Chassid” or “Ikey the Syrian” or “Devorah the Ashkenazi” are over! This year we must all come as one nation, based in Jerusalem, and proud of our unity. This year we are “Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael”… all 900 million lbs of us… so hurry and gain that weight!