20 - Situations - Do Not Separate Yourself from the Community

An individual's strength is enhanced when he is part of a community...when a Jew is part of a community, his deeds and prayers are accepted even if they are flawed.

We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chuyos for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.


Last week’s stretch of the week was:  Look for a seemingly small way in which you can help someone.

Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.


 Lesson #20


Do Not Separate Yourself from the Community

אל תפרוש מן הצבור

Al Tifrosh Min HaTzibbur

Perek Bais, Mishna Hay


Story:  (based on a true story)

I was tired, very, very tired.  But there was a community tehillim tonight for a choleh in our community.  I wanted to daven for him and would have loved to actually go--I feel so much a part of everybody and really directed in a room full of women davening for someone--but my husband was on a business trip and I had no babysitter.  I knew what time it started, though, and my kids would be asleep, so I could open my tehillim at the same time as everybody else and say my tehillim at home.

The only problem was that I was tired.  In a room full of women with people all around me, I would feel stronger, held up by all of the people, and would have the energy to really truly daven for the choleh, who I knew slightly through a friend.  But at home on my couch, tehillim open in my lap, I found myself dozing after only two mizmorim. 

This was important.  I needed to join my community as we stormed shamayim for one of our own.  So I texted a friend who was there and asked her to call me and leave the line open, connecting me to the room through the phone.  I listened to the rustling of a roomful of turning pages combined with occasional sobs, and I davened along.  I said tehillim out loud with the rest of the women when they davened together. 

When the tehillim finished, an organizer spoke about the different ways that people could help the choleh and his family.  The meals were already covered.  The childcare was set.  I didn’t know the family well enough to know what specialized help to offer.  I began to think about a mitzva I could take on or strengthen in my own way and on my own time.  And then I heard the woman say, “One thing they really need is blood.”  She mentioned the type and it was mine too.

I was healthy.  I was not pregnant or nursing.  And I didn’t want to do it.  After striving to be a part of things, an opportunity was handed to me.  But I was scared.  I hate needles.  I used to sometimes faint during blood tests until I was told that I was so scared I was holding my breath.

Two days later, I pushed myself to make the phone call to schedule an appointment to give blood.  I wasn’t sure I’d keep it.  Then, on the day of the appointment, I made myself get in the car.  I got myself there and onto a special chair and they got me started.  I remembered to breathe.  It wasn’t fun, but it also wasn’t bad.  They gave me cookies and juice and I felt fine.

And as I sat, I remembered back to my seminary year in Israel when an entire ballroom of a hotel was filled with yeshiva and seminary students having blood drawn to see if they were a match to be a bone marrow donor for one of our people.  I saw people cry as they were tested, and then afterward hold their aching arms and thank the technicians, stopping at the entrance desk to ensure that they would be called if they could donate.  I saw girls in abject terror inch forward on lines toward the testers. 

And I thought, “Mi k’amcha Yisrael”.  These people, so scared of pain that they scream and jump, are still here on line to see if they can have a voluntary medical procedure in the future.  They feel a part of K’lal Yisrael, and they know that right now, this is a way they can contribute.  It hasn’t occurred to them to absent themselves.

So I gave blood, because I could help that way, even if it was hard.  And I davened from my house, because I could help that way and not the way others could who could actually go.  And I was grateful to be a part of such a tremendous effort on the part of my community to help a Jew in need.

Pirkay Avos:

"הלל אומר:  אל תפרוש מן הצבור ..."

"Hillel omer:  Al tifrosh min hatzibbur…"

"Hillel said:  Do not separate yourself from the community…" (Perek Bais, Mishna Hay).

An individual’s strength is enhanced when he is part of a community.  Rav Simcha Bunim of Peshis’cha states that if a person were to pay for an item with a handful of coins among which one coin is worn away, the seller would not object.  However, should he attempt to buy something with this coin alone, it might well be rejected.  Similarly, when a Jew is part of a community, his deeds and prayers are accepted even if they are flawed. 

H. R. Israel writes, cited by commentaries of Rabbainu Yitzchak ben Shlomo and the Chasid Ya’avetz, that an individual expresses allegiance to the community in four ways:

First, he joins in communal prayer.  Second, he takes part in the community’s charitable endeavors and acts of repentance.  Third, when the community suffers, he does not distance himself from it.  Our Sages teach that, “two ministering angels accompany a person.”  If he does not take part in communal life, “they place their hands on his head and say:  This person has separated himself from others.  Let him not see the consolation that the community will enjoy” (Ta’anis 11a).  Fourth, he conforms to the standards of an upright community.  As our Sages state, “A person should always be an accepted part of the community” (Kesubos 17a).  Among other things, “Do not laugh when others are crying, nor cry when others laugh” (Derech Eretz Zuta 5).

(Reproduced from Rav Lau on Pirkei Avos and from Pirkei Avos with Ideas and Insights of the S’fas Emes and other Chassidic Masters, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.)

Discussion Question Options:

What might cause a person to separate herself from her community?  Is it always a conscious choice?

Why might we opt out of a community-wide initiative?  What are the dangers of separating oneself out?

How can we find ways to be a part of the community even if we have a lack of opportunity or even disagree with some or their positions?

Stretch of the Week:

Look for a way that you can help in your community, and take a step toward doing it.


Stretch Of The Week