July 22, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 22, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

I have always been fascinated by large Jewish gatherings and Israel’s national events. Yom Haatzmaut ceremonies, the mass Birkat Kohanim (Blessing of the priests) at the Kotel, the Celebrate Israel Parade in New York, and numerous other such events leave me awestruck. More than the pageantry, I believe it is the sheer number of Jews gathering for a single purpose or delivering a unified message that moves me. Earlier this month, I experienced the same intense feelings from a simple recorded message.

In preparation for the High Holidays, Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future recorded a special Yamim Noraim message by Rabbi Dovid Lau, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel. The video was then shared exclusively with thousands of communal rabbis around the world, in the hopes that they may develop and incorporate the central ideas weighing on the mind of the Chief Rabbi into their own Rosh Hashanah sermons.

It was only after virtually distributing his thoughts to these rabbinic leaders that I considered the implications of disseminating Torah messages in this way. While millennia have long since passed, I could hear the echoes of the Biblical commandment of hakhel, where all Jewish men, women and children would unify every seven years in Jerusalem to hear and experience the words of Torah as one nation. Despite the vast diversity of the Jewish people, at that moment, everyone was equal, everyone was important. The sense of pride was no doubt overwhelming, and the singularity of purpose was beyond compare.

As technology develops more rapidly than ever before, we are blessed with the tremendous gift of the instantaneous dissemination of ideas. With the click of a mouse (or the launch of an app), a single, unified message can be transmitted to the four corners of the world. And when the recipients of that message are established Torah scholars and community leaders, we can be sure that the information will penetrate the hearts and minds of the Jewish masses worldwide.

The fusion of technology and traditional Jewish teaching methodologies allows us to send a pure, unified message that brings Jews around the world closer together, perhaps in what we can loosely call ‘Hakhel 2.0.’

But the parallels don’t end there. During hakhel, every person in attendance heard the same message, yet they internalized it in a unique way. With our modern day hakhel 2.0, the same message can be received by hundreds of rabbis and is then individualized and uniquely distilled to speak directly to each audience. Once again, digital Torah continues to enhance the tradition of individualism as part of the collective whole.

Following the trials we have faced as a nation over the last several months, we need strong leadership, unification and messages of hope – now more than ever. As we usher in the new year we must seek out opportunities to join our hearts and hands, and must see unifying experiences everywhere we look.

Rabbi Naphtali Lavenda, MBA, is Director of Online Rabbinic Programming at Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future. He has been developing Jewish communal projects and rabbinic programming for over ten years. Rabbi Lavenda lives in Israel with his family.

By Rabbi Naphtali Lavenda

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles