Some teachings from our tradition on creating and maintaining a holy community

From Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers)

  • Shimon the Righteous was among the survivors of the Great Assembly. He used to say: The world depends on three things—on Torah study, on the service of God, and on kind deeds
  • Antigonus, leader of Socho, received the tradition from Shimon the Righteous. He used to say: Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of receiving a reward; instead be like servants who serve their master not for the sake of receiving a reward. And let the awe of Heaven be upon you.
  • Yehoshua be Perachyah and Nittai of Arbel received the tradtion from them. Yehoshua ben Perachyah says: Accept a teacher upon yourself; acquire a friend for yourself, and judge everyone favorably.
  • Hillel says: Be among the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people, and bringing them closer to the Torah.
  • Shammai says: Make your Torah study a fixed practice; say little and do much; and receive everyone with a cheerful face.
  • Rabbi Shimon says: Be meticulous in reading the Shema and in prayer; when you pray, do not make your prayer a set routine, but rather beg for compassion and supplication before the Omnipresent.
  • Rabbi Tarfon says: You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdraw from it.
  • Rabbi Akiva says: Everything is foreseen, yet freedom of choice is given. The world is judged with goodness, and everything depends on the abundance of good deeds.
  • Rabbi Meir says: Judge not by the vessel, but rather by what it contains.

And from the book of Micah: What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your G-d.

From some modern sages:

  • Rabbi Israel Salanter said: Promote yourself, but do not demote another.
  • Rav Kook (the first Chief Rabbi of Palestine 1864-1935) said: Just as the Temple was destroyed through baseless hatred, it will only be rebuilt through baseless love.
  • Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said: Worship is a way of seeing the world in the light of G-d. He also said: A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.
  • Rabbi Kalonymous Kalman Shapira (the Rabbi of the Warsaw ghetto) said the following about building a “community”: Our association is not organized for the purpose of attaining power, or intervening in the affairs of community or state, whether directly or indirectly. Quite the opposite: our goal is to gradually rise above the noise and tumult of the world, by steady and incremental steps.