'The laws have lifted – so it's time to focus on the common good'

Rabbi David Mason. Picture: Muswell Hill Synagogue

Rabbi David Mason has launched EcoSynagogue - Credit: Muswell Hill Synagogue

Judaism is a religion that talks a lot about obligation.

The Children of Israel hear God’s word at Mount Sinai and the Law is revealed to them as a nation. Each member of the people is then bound by a set of commandments.

But in Judaism we think in two ways about our obligations. One is that they are demands of individuals, of people, each one a separate existence. The other, equally important, is that these expectations fall on the community in its entirety. Here we move beyond a solely individualistic model of living to a communal one, where we consider the good of all.

For a religious person, that would mean that if my behaviour was wanting, I am bringing down the image of my people or religion in the eyes of God.

Muswell Hill Synagogue is now part of EcoSynagogue

Muswell Hill Synagogue - Credit: Jelm6/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

But we can map this dual religious idea onto our present reality. We do live in a time when the demands of the individual are often centre stage. It is consumerism that is so important now, and satisfying consumer demand will often define which sectors of an economy will succeed or fail.


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But the last 18 months has brought people together on an unprecedented scale, even at a time when we have needed to distance physically. But more – we have been asked more than before to consider the common good and sacrifice our own individual wants, for that of the larger communal whole.

However, one could say that we have only put the common good first because we have been legally prevented from any other option. Now that these legal barriers are removed from how we individually behave, will we continue to reflect on the common good? Will we consider how there can be differences between how one might behave privately; and how one might behave in public spaces?

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The Covid-9 virus, due to its quiet, silent, asymptomatic transmission, has disrupted life as we know it. But just as it has connected people in its transmissibility; so we have an opportunity to focus more on the common good.

David Mason is rabbi of Muswell Hill Synagogue.

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