Today’s guest post is about the links between serving your community and personal satisfaction by Joel Finbloom!

Friday night services at Hillel constantly remind me why it is that I love Judaism, and it reminds me why I’m motivated to serve my community. When I walk into Hillel on Friday, I greet my friends, and lament that sometimes Hillel is the only time during the week that I see them. After talking for a little while, it’s time to go upstairs for the services, and we sing and pray as a community, in Hebrew, the language of our ancestors and of the Torah (Judaism’s most holy scripture). What’s so wonderful about this service is not only the Hebrew language, but also the fact that all the people in the service, the cantor and the congregants,are singing songs of praise to God together. To pray with my closest friends is one of the most deeply meaningful acts of community I have experienced. It reinforces my belief that one of the most important aspects of religion is the community that it creates and fosters.

After services, a small sermon is given on a topic in the Torah. These sermons are particularly important to me and remind me of yet another aspect of Judaism: intellectual curiosity. To inquire about deeper meanings of the text, and to question and delve into my religion is wonderfully inspiring and allows to me constantly gain something new from Judaism. While the communal aspects of Judaism are fundamental, it is the intellectual curiosity that encourages me to return time and time again to study the Jewish texts.

While there are countless things about Judaism that inspire and motivate me, the two aspects of Community, and Intellectual Curiosity are what motivate me most to serve my Jewish community, both back home and at Northwestern. I hope that through serving in the community, I can help people connect to Judaism in their own way, and help foster their sense of community and intellectual curiosity.

To do this, I sometimes lead the services at Hillel, and will sometimes give the sermon after services. By actively leading the service, or the discussions on the Torah, I hope that people will be motivated to do the same, and in doing so, will create a strong community that is self-sustaining. I also participate, rather than lead, in various Torah discussions and in other learning opportunities at Hillel.

I must admit however, that it is not primarily for the purpose of others that I serve in the community, but rather for my own selfish reasons. I lead services not only because I want to inspire, but also because I want to be inspired. I don’t give the sermon just because I want to teach others, but because I want to force myself to learn Torah and delve into the deeper meaning of the text.

To serve the Jewish community is also to serve myself, and although this may sound selfish, I think
that that is the purpose of a strong religious community. To encourage growth and inspiration in others and in oneself.