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26 Old Mill Road, Great Neck, NY 11023 (516) 487-6100                                                           Shabbat Announcements Bamidbar 5779
         lose a sense of personal responsibility. Crowds are   Against that, God tells Moses to lift people’s heads by
         peculiarly prone to regressive behavior, primitive reactions   showing that they each count; they matter as individuals.
         and instinctual behavior. They are easily led by figures who  Indeed, in Jewish law a davar she-be-minyan, something
         are demagogues, playing on people’s fears and sense of   that is counted, sold individually rather than by weight, is
         victimhood. Such leaders, he said, are “especially recruited   never nullified even in a mixture of a thousand or a million
         from the ranks of those morbidly nervous excitable half-  others. In Judaism taking a census must always be done in
         deranged persons who are bordering on madness”, a    such a way as to signal that we are valued as individuals.
         remarkable anticipation of Hitler. It is no accident that Le   We each have unique gifts. There is a contribution only I
         Bon’s work was published in France at a time of rising   can bring. To lift someone’s head means to show them
         antisemitism and the Dreyfus trial.                  favor, to recognize them. It is a gesture of love. There is,
                                                              however, all the difference in the world between
         Hence the significance of one remarkable feature of   individuality and individualism. Individuality means that I
         Judaism: its principled insistence – like no other civilization   am a unique and valued member of a team. Individualism
         before – on the dignity and integrity of the individual. We   means that I am not a team player at all. I am interested
         believe that every human being is in the image and likeness   in myself alone, not the group. Harvard sociologist Robert
         of God. The Sages said that every life is like an entire   Putnam gave this a famous name, noting that more people
         universe. Maimonides says that each of us should see   than ever in the United States are going ten-pin bowling
         ourselves as if our next act could change the fate of the   but fewer than ever are joining teams. He called it
         world. Every dissenting view is carefully recorded in the   “Bowling alone.” MIT professor Sherry Turkle calls our age
         Mishnah, even if the law is otherwise. Every verse of the   of Twitter, Facebook, and online (rather than face-to-face)
         Torah is capable, said the Sages, of seventy interpretations.   friendships, “Alone together.” Judaism values individuality,
         No voice, no view, is silenced. Judaism never allows us to   not individualism. As Hillel said, “If I am only for myself,
         lose our individuality in the mass.
                                                              what am I?”
         There is a wonderful blessing mentioned in the Talmud to   All this has implications for Jewish leadership. We are not
         be said on seeing 600,000 Israelites together in one place.   in the business of counting numbers. The Jewish people
         It is: “Blessed are You, Lord … who discerns secrets.” The   always was small and yet achieved great things. Judaism
         Talmud explains that every person is different. We each   has a profound mistrust of demagogic leaders who
         have different attributes. We all think our own thoughts.   manipulate the emotions of crowds. Moses at the burning
         Only God can enter the minds of each of us and know what   bush spoke of his inability to be eloquent. “I am not a man
         we are thinking, and this is what the blessing refers to. In   of words.” He thought this was a failing in a leader. In fact
         other words, even in a massive crowd where, to human   it was the opposite. Moses did not sway people by his
         eyes, faces blur into a mass, God still relates to us as   oratory. Rather, he lifted them by his teaching. A Jewish
         individuals, not as members of a crowd. That is the   leader has to respect individuals. He or she must “lift their
         meaning of the phrase, “lift the head,” used in the context   heads.” However large the group you lead, you must
         of a census. God tells Moses that there is a danger, when   always communicate the value you place on everyone. You
         counting a nation, that each individual will feel insignificant.   must never attempt to sway a crowd by appealing to the
         “What am I? What difference can I make? I am only one of   primitive emotions of fear or hate. You must never ride
         millions, a mere wave in the ocean, a grain of sand on the   roughshod over the opinions of others. It is hard to lead a
         sea-shore, dust on the surface of infinity.”
                                                              nation of individuals, but this is the most challenging,
                                                              empowering, inspiring leadership of all.
                         Great Neck Yoetzet Halacha Lisa Septimus
                           Welcomes your questions about mikvah,
                       observance of taharat mishpacha (halacha relating
                       to married life) and women’s health, as it connects
                             to Jewish law. Reach out to her at:
                                  Phone: 516.415.1111
                           Email: greatneckyoetzet@gmail.com.
                              Great Neck Synagogue
                     26 Old Mill Road, Great Neck , NY 11023
                                  516-487-6100

                         Rabbi Dale Polakoff, Rabbi
                      Rabbi Ian Lichter, Assistant Rabbi
                    Dr. Ephraim Wolf, z”l, Rabbi Emeritus
                           Yitzy Spinner, Cantor
                    Eleazer Schulman, z”l, Cantor Emeritus
                     Rabbi Sholom Jensen, Youth Director
                  Zehava & Dr. Michael Atlas, Youth Directors
                      Mark Twersky, Executive Director
                     Dr. James Frisch, Assistant Director
                          Erran Kagan, President
                   Harold Domnitch, Chairman of the Board
                  Lisa Septimus, Yoetzet Halacha 516-415-1111
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