My Neighbors, My Congregation, My Love

“‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.

“‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Leviticus 19:17-18

College Area Eruv

I learned something brand new and beautiful about my community yesterday. We’ve lived in the College Area of San Diego since 2008. And I’d never noticed these tiny wires extending from the tops of light poles until now.

These are part of the College Area Eruv. What’s an eruv? That’s a new word for me, too. So here’s an explanation.

An eruv ([?e??uv]Hebrew??????, “mixture”, also transliterated as eiruv or erub, plural: eruvin[?e?u?vin]) is a ritual enclosure that some Jewish communities, and especially Orthodox Jewish communities, construct in their neighborhoods as a way to permit Jewish residents or visitors to carry certain objects outside their own homes on Sabbath and Yom Kippur. An eruv accomplishes this by integrating a number of private and public properties into one larger private domain, thereby avoiding restrictions on carrying objects from the private to the public domain on Sabbath and holidays.

The eruv allows those religious Jews to carry, among other things, house keys, tissues, medicines and/or babies with them, and use strollers and canes. The presence or absence of an eruv thus especially affects the lives of people with limited mobility and those responsible for taking care of babies and young children.

Think about it like this. Orthodox Jews in my community have made our entire neighborhood symbolically their home. That’s a beautiful, ancient concept that gives new context to Jesus’ words:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:36-40

Loving Your Neighbors as Yourself Means Showing Up

This religious ritual of eruv begs the question, “How do I, practically speaking, consider my neighborhood my home?

For years I’ve been working out the question, “How can I be good news in my neighborhood?” But eruv asks a variation of that question, right? “How can I treat people in my neighborhood like they live in my house?

Living in McLandia brings with it certain expectations (cough, chores), privileges, unquestionable rights and access to Kristen and I, love unconditionally, and a host of other things.

So how do I work that out?

We live in a community where only about 55% of adults are eligible to vote. (Green card holders, refugees, people without legal status, people convicted of a felony, etc.) So that means we have a responsibility to represent them with our own status and privileges, right? We have a responsibility to help make sure their voice is heard, right? We have a responsibility to leverage whatever privilege or access or power we have for them because they aren’t just our neighbors… they are part of McLandia.

So, over the past few years, that’s lead me into new places. To love my neighbor as myself I have to show up. I have to invest. I have to leverage. I have to care in ways similar to how I show up, invest, and leverage for my own children.

That has me participating in things like yesterday’s protest at the airport.

But it also has us getting to know the families at our neighborhood school.

And going to local community council meetings.

And showing up for neighborhood clean-ups.

And leveraging whatever I have to get my local politicians to hear the needs of my neighborhood.

None of these things are heroic or even notable. Literally, this in simply our reorientation to understand that our community is our congregation.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

It takes two seconds to say but a lifetime to live.






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