More than 20 centuries ago, the great Jewish sage Hillel stated that “Those who do not add; subtract” (Avot 1:13) Our rabbis traditionally applied this wise saying to the subject of study and learning; which they saw as an ongoing process. Hillel’s admonition is the intellectual equivalent of today’s medical advice about our physical health, “Use it or lose it.”
There are many other examples of this basic insight that life is not static. Those who do not change will be left behind. This principle also applies to populations. Communities that are not increasing; are decreasing. Numbers do count.
Nowhere is this more true than in Poland’s newly revived Jewish community. There would be great sorrow if the miracle of new Jewish life in Poland died out in the next few decades. But this is what will happen unless those Jews who have recently discovered they have a Jewish soul; actively reach out to all those around them who they feel might also have Jewish roots, and invite them to taste a little bit of Jewish life and study. A miracle that stops inspiring people is no longer a miracle.
This is one of the greatest Mitsvot one can do today in 21st century Poland. If every Jew only influences 2-3 other people to become Jewish, he or she actively participates in the miracle of Poland’s Jewish revival. This is how the Jewish people began. The Torah states that when Abraham and Sarah left Haran to go to the land of Canaan, they took with them some members of their family, and the “souls that they made in Haran”. (Genesis 12:5)
Our rabbis ask how is it possible for any human being to make a soul. Rashi, the famous 11th century French Biblical commentator, explains by quoting a Midrash by Rabbi Eleazar ben Zimra that says “the souls that they made” refers to the many converts they made. Abraham and Sarah gave birth to the Jewish People by first creating a community of people who desired to go with them on their journey to a new destiny in a new land. “Where you go, I will go. Where you live, I will live. Your people shall be my people. Your God will be my God.” Ruth 1: 16