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Short Range Goals versus Long Range Goals in Judaism

by Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

The following is addressed primarily to myself. I hope that others will also find it of value.

Short range, day to day, week to week goals are necessary for the proper functioning of Synagogues. But they are not sufficient. To make Judaism more dynamic and meaningful, long range goals must also be considered.

A short range goal is to have daily minyanim for services. A long range goal is to make the daily minyanim more meaningful to those who attend. The significance of the prayers and their relevance to each person's life should be discussed.

Having weekly Sabbath services is a short range goal. A long range goal is to involve the participants, to transform and inspire them, to help them improve their lives by their weekly Synagogue experience.

Reading the Torah in the Synagogue is a short range goal. Making Torah values part of our lives is a long range goal. All too often, people listen to the Torah as they might listen to a talk in a foreign language; there is little understanding. Even when the words are understood, there is little effort to relate to the values being expressed.

Reading the haftorah (the weekly prophetic portion) is a short range goal. A person must be selected each week for this task. However, seldom is the long range task of becoming "b’nei neviim" (descendents of the Prophets) considered. Moses said, "would that all the Jewish people would be prophets." But, even with the weekly reading of a portion of the prophetic literature, one generally searches in vain for a prophetic voice in Judaism today.

Youth activities to keep children active, and out of adults' hands during services is a short range goal. The long range goal would be to have youth activities that teach Jewish values, such as compassion, kindness, and justice. Children all too often get programmed into the same kinds of apathy and mindless activities as adults.

A short range goal is to work for a better Synagogue, to see that the day to day needs are met. A long range goal would be to apply Jewish values in working for a better Synagogue, community, city, nation, and world. All too often, Judaism is confined to the four walls of the sanctuary. The world needs, perhaps more than ever before, Jewish values and Jewish involvement.

A short range goal would be to work on a particular aspect of Judaism: conducting a Seder, building a Succah, lighting Chanukah candles. Long range goals would be to use these particular activities as inspirations for universal ideals; to feed the hungry, work for a peaceful world, reduce poverty, clean the environment.

A short range goal is to work for Israel's security, to contribute money, to help it meet its social and economic needs. A long range goal would be to work to help make Israel what it must become: a holy people, a light unto the nations, a witness for God, an echo of eternity.

A short range goal is study, the holding of regular classes on the Torah and other aspects of Judaism. A long range goal is study that leads to action, the type of study that shows what Judaism has to say about current issues such as pollution, hunger, energy, waste, and peace, and provides the knowledge and inspiration to help Jews apply Jewish values.

Short range goals are essential. They must be met if Judaism is to survive. But they have been overemphasized compared to long range, universal goals. There must be far greater consideration of long range goals to revitalize Judaism and help make it relevant to today's critical issues.