Take a moment. And imagine.
Imagine what the Jewish world would look like if it was perfect. Think of the issues you’ve seen, the ones that you accept now as normal. Imagine if you didn’t need to see those issues as normal, if you could make them go away with a magic wand.
How would people relate to each other differently?
How would leaders act?
How would music sound?
How would shul feel?
How would dealing with the outside world go?
We’ll all have different answers to these questions. This exercise is unique to each person. But the one thing we have in common is that we all, if we really took the time to do this exercise, to truly imagine the “perfect” community, would have a dramatic, vibrant, powerful vision.
And yet, most of us don’t really live with that vision implanted in our minds.
Most people keep their visions hidden (sometimes even from themselves), with an understanding that part of living in a community requires compromise. There are pluses and minuses to any life, and even more so in a world where people are trying to build a community that centers around shared beliefs. Not to mention keeping peace among the Jewish people. Not to mention that it’s unhealthy to constantly look at what’s wrong, to not be grateful for what we have.
All true, all true.
But there’s a problem with keeping the peace, one that compromises the very core of the Jewish soul.
It may be true that perfection will never come in this world. It may be true that compromise is healthy. It may be true that every place has its pluses and minuses.
But our job isn’t just to live in this world, is it?
It’s to build the next one.
The perfect one.
The world of Moshiach.
The problem with being compromising and making peace is that it can cause us to lose our vision of perfection.
In fact, it can result in simply living this life, in simply trying to create peace but without combining it with justice, the only way to reach perfection.
Which is why we need to imagine what the world would be like if we removed all the restrictions of peace and compromise and outer identity. Because while it’s nice to say, “Don’t judge Judaism by the Jews,” can you imagine what an incredibly beautiful world it would be if you could?! I am practically jumping out of my seat thinking of such a thing. A world where we are living it, truly living it.
That perfect world, that perfect world can only be arrived at through action, through our hands down in this world. It’s nice to say, “Do more mitzvahs!” But it’s deeper to say, “What would it truly mean to do have a world showered by the mitzvahs of the Jewish people?”
I can’t imagine it would be as simple as lots of praying and lots of studying Torah. I would imagine there would be bongo drums everywhere and people telling the weirdest stories they can come up with to an audience that celebrates it and tzedekah going to things beyond the usual and tzitzis sold at Walmart (Y-Love told me this once one I interviewed him and the image never left me).
Of course, I am sure there are those of you who snub your noses at bongo drums and Walmart tztizis (Oh, you Target people, when will you let it go?!). But the point isn’t the particulars. Rather, they aren’t my particulars. They are the particulars of us all. That vision of better days, better things, perfect days, perfect things.
Words are nice. Compromise is nice. Semi-held-together unity is nice.
But a vision? Any vision. That is priceless.
Because once we have a vision in our minds, we can start to communicate it. And connect with others with similar visions. And then do the work of getting there.
And that’s really what this is all about, this visioning thing. Not just to dream it, see it, but to get there with all our energy. How can we talk about Moshiach every day in our dreams when we all know for a fact that it’s not actually here and that this isn’t our vision, let alone God’s? How?! I do not understand this compromising with the moment, this deal with the present. To acknowledge that things are not perfect is fine, but to accept it? To say, “Don’t judge Judaism by the Jews” and not immediately think it’s just the worst sentence to say because it means Moshiach isn’t actually here? Unforgivable!
And I don’t mean to say that there aren’t people working tirelessly to bring Moshiach. Please understand. This is not so much about the energy we’re putting in, but in the imagination we are letting go. Imagination, dreaming, vision. To get a ton of people to wrap tefillin is beautiful. But what does it mean to imagine those wrapped floating in the sky with God at their side at all moments? My gosh, that’s a different vision! It would mean envisioning a world where the liberal hipster who hates Israel isn’t just wrapping tefillin and conforming to your point of view but somehow has his view infusing us! The world!
This is the uncomfortable thinking that we do that allows us to truly push for the perfect world. The kind of thinking that allows us to let go of the worries of what the neighbors will say, the actual ones or the virtual ones. The kind of thinking that allows us to not care if the leaders are on our side because if the leaders can’t see our vision that’s too bad! We’re on the road to Moshiach, and the leaders will understand when we are dancing in the Beis Hamikdash. It’s the thinking that lets us say I will focus on helping this particular Jew that no one else seems to worry about because he doesn’t fit their mold or their hopes or their vision of what a Jew is. To be criticized for doing so.
It is vision that allows all those things, because when you see the destination in front of you then all you need to do to get there is to step forward. People can try and tell you, “No, go this way! You’re on the wrong road!” But you see it, that shining city on the hill, that temple in the distance, that shechina descended.
This is what it means to fight for a vision, to look deeper than the moment, to expect the impossible not just of Judaism but of Jews. It means going forward without regard for any consideration but the goal.
My friends, we all have it in ourselves. Just look. Then step forward.
I’ll see you at the end.