Reform. Conservative. Reconstructionist. Orthodox. Unaffiliated. Just Jewish. Not that Jewish. We all have been asked the question before, “What kind of Jew are you?” And we’ve all responded, sometimes enthusiastically and sometimes hesitantly, with how we label ourselves. Imagine if we responded, simply, “I’m Jewish!” No matter how we practice, at the end of the day we are all Jewish!
This week’s Parshah, Yitro, finds us at a pivotal moment of Jewish identity building. In our narrative, the Jewish people had marched out of Egypt just three months before and found themselves at the foot of Mount Sinai, on the heels of God’s revelation. We learned two weeks ago in Parsha Bo, as the Jews were leaving Egypt, a mixed multitude of people left with the Jewish people to embark on this journey. Now, finally, the Jewish people are standing as one, waiting in anticipation as they are about to meet their God.
In fact, in the moments leading up to the act of Revelation, when God reveals itself and the law to the Jewish people, God deliberately instructs Moses to gather Ha-Am, the people, twelve different times. God did not just call upon Moses, or Aaron, or even the elders of Israel, but he called upon Kol Ha-am, all of the people, to be present during this holy moment. Our Midrash speculates on why it was necessary for Kol Ha-am, all of the people, to be present. Couldn’t the leadership just have told the rest of the community about what was experienced? We learn that “Each Israelite heard what was in their power to hear” (Sh’mot Rabbah 28:6). Each Israelite needed to experience their own moment of revelation as part of the collective whole.
This experience is not so different from what we find today. All of us identify and connect to Judaism in a way that is unique and meaningful for us. Whether you are a Jewish foodie, Torah scholar, Zionist, community seeker, Jewishly curious, or all of the above, you are part of the Kol Ha-am, the Jewish people. Just as each person was able to experience revelation in their own way at Mount Sinai, we encourage and celebrate the unique ways in which individuals connect to Judaism today.
Kol Ha-am means that we are a people of many voices. Let us all come together, as a mixed multitude of Jewish identity, to learn with, support, and celebrate the diversity within our Jewish community. Shabbat Shalom!