Community service is an important aspect of giving back to the society since it enhances the existing relationship between parties involved. Community service is basically a voluntary exercise that involves touching lives of special members of the society. Among the special group includes orphans, old, physically challenged among others. The process is interactive and involves practicing moral values and religious inclination beliefs to identify with humanity.
In the process of lending a helping hand, there are fundamental and pivotal factors and morals that control the process and give it its desired purpose. Generally, community service is meant to address social concerns and touch lives in the process. In Jewish tradition, several social concerns are notes in the Tenakh, Talmud, Midrash, commentaries, codes, and primary sources of this tradition.
Thus, this reflective treatise attempts give an in- depth conceptualization of the aspect of community service as explained in the Tanakh, Talmud, Midrash, commentaries, and sources of Jewish tradition. These aspects are correlated to my community service activities at Berkeley Men’s Homeless Shelter. In addition, the paper attempts to identify the origin of these teachings and date them appropriately.
My participation in the community service at Berkeley Men’s Homeless Shelter has been rewarding as the voluntary and well organized service at this expansive home has created a special attachment with a forceful and very clear opportunity to not only learn the Jewish contextual service provision, but also reaching out to the wider old generation practicing Jewish faith.
As I offered free services as a cook, “the connection and desire to belong exceeded the physical work” (Nuesner 14). I felt a strong feeling of total connection as the faith based programs involved interaction with the old. As a result, I experienced a momentum growth in service delivery and sincere concern for the fragile members of the society.
As a Jew, this experience presented an adept opportunity to practice the fundamental teaching by Baron to display and demonstrate inner commitment to “do good to the society which functions on moral value suasion” (Baron 354).
Besides, the practice, when performed beyond the mere boundary of faith, impacts the humanity and creates room for soul searching into benefits of inclusivity. Thus, the practice help to lay bare leadership skills, foster intrinsic empowerment, and activate passion for total engagement between the spiritual and physical being.
Therefore, this goes in line with the Rabbi Baron’s view that engaging young people in unique and new voluntary activities “encourages inclusive participatory and interesting learning process void of selfishness and disrespect to social values” (Baron 357) which define Jewish existence on the face of this planet.
Community service also involves resource mobilization and optimal use of these resources to give back and impact on lives of many people. Often, the resources are collected in a non profit integration of gifts and the art of giving.
As a volunteer at the Walnut Creek retirement home, in a group of fifteen persons, our group consisting of infused volunteers offer technical assistance in gardening to those unable to do gardening in their farms.
This was meant to facilitate efforts to rebuild old lives and make them smile with joy. Same as stated in the Rabbi Isaac, “this process enabled my group and the other party to appreciate and value the tradition of concern for fellow brethren through genuine and inspired commitment void of conditions” (Nuesner 18).
Community service foster creativity and activates expression of every part and aspect of personal life as part of the unique Jewish identity. Through provision of service training and aided learning, creativity sparks innovativeness in the process of directing assistance to members of the Walnut Creek retirement home.
As part of expressive the Jewish values, the aspect of creativity and innovativeness help to inspire the inner self to remain observant, responsible, and caring to the needs of neighbors and the society at large. Besides, “it creates a sense of pride in identity and sensitivity to concerns of special groups in the Jew society” (Nuesner 17).
Generally, what matters in community service is the little things people do. As a matter of fact, the service must not be prolonged or highly intensive to be classified as a community service.
What matters is the effectiveness of the service and response on the side of the target that appreciates and value the resultant impact. Often, impacts created by inclusive community service go a long way to ensure that services that are lacking are catered for, irrespective of the conservativeness or liberalness of the group and perception.
In Berkeley Men’s Homeless Shelter, our congregation was in the lead as the old men share heartedly on experiences and values of wisdom, and upright living in line with the Jewish tradition which demands for a voluntary and viable response to human needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and spiritual encouragement.
As we practice community service in Walnut Creek retirement home, I noticed a slow but steady spiritual growth and appreciation of voluntary response to concerns and needs of people surrounding me. As the old people laughed with joy and indicated big smile, the involuntary aim of creating a sense of satisfaction was evident. The excitements and activeness indicated appreciation of our efforts and helped to foster feeling of satisfaction.
The services I offered in these settings went along way in promoting social action, affirming efforts, and creating a fertile environment for comprehensive outreach for achieving community inspired participation. This is because my actions and motivational insight was a direct reflection of Jewish tradition.
As a result, I experienced an all round feeling of special identity with my being and that of the community at large. In the Jewish tradition, the learning contextual facets in community service resonate on the service delivery as an extensive but clear order. As a matter of fact, the Torah remind the Jewish community to “love they neighbor as thyself” (Hurvitz and Karesh 45).
In the collection consisting of rabbinic laws for the Jewish called Talmud, tzedekah has the same rank on significance just like the commandments called the mitzvoth which is an obligation or commitment to do what is good. Mitzvoth issues an ultimatum directive to all Jewish believers to voluntarily help the needy, the old, orphan, widows, and even strangers who lack amidst us.
This directive is thirty six times more powerful than any existing legal commandment in the tradition of the Jewish community. Same as the old times when we were slaves in Egypt, mitzvoth is an inclusive command that goes beyond legal obligation to help. Actually, it appeals for morality and concern for the unfortunate amongst us as a means of “expression humanity and love for God” (Greenberg 36).
Irrespective of the religious views of the beneficiary in community service, the Torah is clear and condemns those who put bound in serving other. This means that doing well has no limit and goodness is a measure of the extra miles a person or a group may be willing to travel to reach out to the needy.
Among the eight Tzedekah teachings in the Maimonides include “upholding the hand of the poor” (“Jewish Philanthropy: The Concept of Tzedakar” par. 3) and being human in entering a mutual partnership with those who lack in the society.
The act of upholding hands of those lacking goes a long way in ensuring participatory approach in reaching out and reassuring others of the love of God expressed through mankind. Tzedekar defines the principles and offer explicit guidance towards practicing moral values as indicated in the Jewish tradition. Besides, Prophet Micah reminds the Jew to always “do justice and love mercy” (New Jerusalem Bible, Mic. 6. 8-9).It is only those who love mercy who can do well voluntarily among their peers and the society at large.
Thus, community service in this perspective helps to promote justice and mercy on mankind who are unfortunate or lack. Besides prophet Micah, prophet Isaiah reminds the Jew society to always “let the oppressed go free, cover the naked, deal thy bread to the hungry” (New Jerusalem Bible, Isa. 58. 6-8).Community service goes a long way in covering nakedness and giving bread to those who lack.
As indicated by the teaching of prophet Isaiah, voluntary and selfless giving back to the society is important and affirms the spirit of collective responsibility. Besides, it creates a sense of self worth and pride which comes from constantly showing unconditional love to the less unfortunate in the society.
The writings of Pirke Avot have reaffirmed the reminder from the above prophets. He instructs the Jew community in the following ways: “do not separate yourself from the community” (Hertz 29)”though it is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, you are not free from doing all you possibly can”(Hertz 30) “let not your learning exceed your good deeds, lest you be like a tree with many branches but few roots” (Hertz 30) and “happy are those who keep and pursue justice, who do righteousness at all times” (Hertz 32).
As indicated in prayer books, the phrase Aleynu is translated as it is incumbent upon us or “it is upon us” (“Jewish Philanthropy: The Concept of Tzedakar” par. 1) to make the world a better place for everyone.
Reflectively, at present this concept has been incorporated in the tzedekar as a social action meant to create an imperative Jewish society aligned on the same axis as traditions and morals of the past. According to Rabbi Yitz Greenberg sums up aleynu as a constructive but inclusive work as dependent and function upon tikkun alam, that is, the art of amending the world into a better place.
Rabbi Yitz asserts that the art of amending the world basically is “as significant as a divine creative act of cosmic significance” (Greenberg 18). In addition, he concludes in the book The Jewish Way that tikkun alam may be the only way on “how the mosaic of perfection will be accomplished” (Greenberg 29).
Through community service at Walnut Creek and Berkeley Men’s Homeless Shelter, I have been able to advocate and practice an inert, passionate, and self inspired commitment to serving the unfortunate and special members of the society without expecting any financial reward.
As a matter of fact, my service was not only inspired by biblical teachings, but also due to self conviction as substantiated and mandated by Jewish identity. As the wish of Jewish tradition, as indicated above, community service goes an extra mile in accomplishing the correct thing. At the end, both self satisfaction and affirming unique Jewish identity inspires community service activities.
As part of the Jewish identity ,there is an inert need to contribute, in depth desire to tremendously inspire through social service, and take informed actions that are aimed at benefiting the Jewish society and even non Jewish as an appreciation of humanity. In the process of achieving this, lives are impacted along the way as Jewish historical traditions and cultural orientation interacts with one another.
Thus, through voluntary and participatory approach, it is not only possible, but also easily achievable as young people dedicate time and resource to freely give back to the society. Besides, seeing smiles form target group is generally rewarding putting into consideration the fact that “community service activities are aimed at making the world a better place through repairing” (Nuesner 16).
Since the learning of service as part of Jewish tradition is included in the community service segments, the young and energetic participants in my group were able to develop sensitivity and full involvement as the special needs members of the society responded by satisfactory applaud. As a result, I felt a deep sense of connection to my Jewish heritage.
Jewish heritage is characterized by readiness to assist neighbors, development of concern for humanity, and inclusive appreciation of human life. Through community service, these aspects are achievable by impacting the lives of the unfortunate irrespective of tribe, race, and religion. Community service is more than use of physical energy in serving others.
Rather, the process starts with personal conviction and “voluntary urge to impact lives through giving back selflessly to the society” (Greenberg 26). When inspired by the need to make a difference, connection with Jewish heritage is within reach, especially when practiced continuously and in different environments. Since the results of community service activities are quantifiable, it is in order to claim that the art is relevant and meaningful expression of personal growth commitment to Jewish intensification.
Moreover, acting Jewish affirms actuality of being a Jew. The traditional moral values aligned in the Torah mandates the Jew community to develop concern and responsible attitude towards brethren and assist voluntarily to improve and positively inspire spiritual growth for the less fortunate members of the wider community to create what Rabbi Greenberg describes as “another bit of perfection” (Greenberg 259).
In conclusion, it is apparent that community survive is an essential aspect of Jewish identity. Through community service, an individual is given an opportunity to practice the moral principles in Tzedakar. Generally, community service is meant to affirm concern, sensitivity, and responsibility in serving needs of special members of the larger community. Besides, practices in community service can be traced back to the time Jewish community was in Egypt and in the laws of Moses.
Baron, Salo N. A social and Religious History of the Jews. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1958. Print.
Greenberg, Irving. The Jewish way: living the holidays. Virginia: University of Virginia, 1998. Print.
Hertz, Joseph. Pirke Avot. Jerusalem: Behrman House, 1986. Print.
Hurvitz, Mitchell, and Karesh Sara. Encyclopedia of Judaism. New York: Inforbase Publishing, 2005. Print.
Jewish Philanthropy: The Concept of Tzedakar. Web. 06 April 2012.
Nuesner, Jacob. Judaism: The Evidence of the Mishnah. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989. Print.
The New Jerusalem Bible. Ed. Susan Jones. New York: Doubleday, 1985. Print.