Over Shabbos, Builder and I have been learning Pirkei Avos. (Yes, Builder is progressive enough to want to learn with his WIFE!) This being Chapter 2 (Perek Bet), we came to the famous line, "Al tifrosh min hatzibur." "Do not separate yourself from the community." And, surprise surprise, the inspiration for this blog title.
But what does that mean? Does it mean simply that an individual should march in lockstep with the rest of the Jewish army, swallowing down every chumrah, every Torah interpretation, no matter how far-fetched? Or does it mean that we, the Jewish people as a whole, must not seek to wall ourselves off from the wider community?
In my opinion, the latter holds true.
Of late, we've become so obsessed with maintaining some bizarre idea of "kedusha" that we've forgotten how to treat people. We shun those who are different, even through no fault of their own. We look for differences as minor as type of head cover, color of shirt, or style of eyeglasses. Our homes are virtual clones of one another. We track our children into paths that we chose for them, regardless of their own aptitudes. And we are quick to cast out those who are different.
Somehow, I don't think that's what G-d intended.