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Why are so many Jews involved in altruistic causes?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

  

Library » Jewish Identity » Who/What is a Jew? | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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The Jewish nation was created with a mission: A mission to introduce G-d to the world, to bring all of creation to its Creator, and to turn a jungle into the garden it was meant to be. To achieve this goal G-d gives the Jew an innate desire and ability to create change, as well as the gift of Torah, which provides both the manual and the tools to implement the change G-d desires.

So the soul of the Jew naturally yearns for change. Ideally, its vision is actualized through the guidance of Torah. When, for whatever reason, the Jew is not leading a Torah life, the yearning of the soul must find other expressions.

In turn, this leads to the phenomenon captured oh-so-well by playwright David Mamet: “Not only do we Jews put ourselves behind every cause and movement, we put ourselves behind every whale and dolphin.” Not that I have anything against saving whales, the point is that Jews would be so much happier and "fulfilled" if they just found the ultimate "cause": living as a Jew in accordance with the directives of Torah.1

Footnotes

  • 1. This doesn't mean giving up on saving whales; to the contrary, a Torah fulfilled life will enhance any good one is currently involved in.

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On the other hand

Posted by: Michael Makovi on Jan 01, 2006

On the other hand, I like to think that even when Jews leave Judaism, Judaism has left such a mark on them that they yearn to improve the world and help other people, even if they aren't quite sure how (leading them to join every movement under the sun). In other words, I like to think that it is the Jewish neshama (soul) yearning to be a Torah-Jew, even if it doesn't know it.

Philanthropic Jews

Posted by: Anonymous on Feb 10, 2006

Who ever said that giving and easing suffering of Jew and non-Jew alike does not constitute "being a Jew?" Tikun olam is an instrisically Jewish aspect of life.

Editor's Comment

Social causes are beautiful things. And when a social cause is done as a directive of, and in accordance with, the Torah, it is PART of Judaism. However, social causes on their own, regardless of how noble they seem, do not substitute Torah nor constitute Judaism.

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