"We are a sacred community"
"When I was growing up in the Bronx," the Reb once told me, "everyone knew everyone. Our apartment building was like family. We watched out for one another.
"I remember once, as a boy, I was so hungry, and there was a fruit and vegetable truck parked by our building. I tried to bump against it, so an apple would fall into my hands. That way it wouldn't feel like stealing.
"Suddenly, I heard a voice from above yelling at me in Yiddish, ‘Albert, it is forbidden!' I jumped. I thought it was God."
Who was it? I asked.
"A lady who lived upstairs."
I laughed. Not quite God.
"No. But we were part of each other's lives. If someone was about to slip, someone else could catch him.
"That's the critical idea behind a congregation. We call it a Kehillah Kedoshah—a sacred community. We're losing that now. The suburbs have changed things. Everyone has a car. Everyone has a million things scheduled. How can you look out for your neighbor? You're lucky to get a family to sit down for a meal together."