Our examination of the relationships between the individual Jew and the circles of the wider Jewish world must start with the need of the individual human for connection with others. Judaism recognizes this; so does all human history. The fact is that the vast majority of people throughout history have sought to live their lives in the framework of a group. They have derived the essence of their identity from their relationship with the group to which they belonged. Indeed the very word – identity - that is used in English to express the ‘I-ness’ of a person, derives from a Latin word that means ‘the same.’ Human experience has endorsed the group more than the individual. Recent generations have raised the flag of individualism and self-expression above all others, but we must recognize that these ideas and values are fairly new to the human experience.
Individuals need others for many different things. Materially, it is hard for people to eke out a living and be completely self-sufficient. Food, shelter and the fundamentals of life are best supplied within a communal framework. When we talk about a material level that is based on more than the most elementary needs, it is almost impossible for most individuals to achieve these things on their own. Human history has created specialization, crafts, bartering and trade.
It is hard for people to provide for their own security when they are isolated. Security is one of the most basic of human needs. Whether against other people, wild animals or threats from the elements (e.g., water, winds and earthquakes), we are best protected by our organization within the group framework.
We need people around us to create human culture, the way of life that separates us from the animal kingdom. We have been blessed with capacities and potential that other species do not possess to the same extent. What good is language if we have no one to talk to? What good is our speculation about the wonders of the world if we have no one with whom to discuss them? How rich can our lives be if we cannot be enriched by the collective experience that embodies the discoveries and insights of others; if we are forced to rely on our own limited horizons, hemmed in by our own deficiencies?
We need others in order to provide continuity. One lone person leaves no direct continuation. Some species of creatures can reproduce themselves in isolation, but we are not among them. Without contact with others, we would be chance mutations of nature. We would not be truly human.
Of course, we also need others for emotional reasons, such as contact, companionship, friendship and love. There are many who would say that this is the most important human need of all. By definition, it simply cannot exist in a vacuum.
Thus, before we examine human community and the relationships between large and diverse groups, we must start from the beginning, with the simple elemental human need for the other. We must start with ??????.