Wednesday, October 04, 2006

There is nothing in the world that makes me as angry as Jews trashing other Jews.

What set this off? Nothing much, really, mostly casual comments I heard in half a dozen different places over the High Holy Days. It seemed that everywhere I went, all of us were absorbed with two things: how much the world seems to hate Jews, and what a shanda those other Jews are. There's always a bit of chat about those orthodox Jews, those Reform Jews, those Conservative Jews, those uneducated Jews, those Israel-no-matter-what Jews, those Israel-hating Jews, those fake Jews, those bad Jews who aren't kosher enough, those other Jews.

News flash, landsmen: we can't afford this stupidity, this baseless hatred between Jews. You, with the catty little comment about those other Jews, and you, with the juicy bit of gossip about a particular bad Jew, you and you and you: shaddup already. We have enough enemies, we don't need to be our own enemies.

I know, I know, there are historical roots, a nice way of saying that we've been doing this mishegoss for a long, long time. Ezra was furious with the people he found in the land, many of them distant cousins (dare I say, Jews?) The Macabees weren't just fighting Greeks, you know, they were fighting with other Jews. The Sadducees and the Pharisees and the Zionists and the Essenes and goodness knows who else were squabbling about the right way to be Jews, and before you know it, the Temple's in flames and Jews are the new slave labor du jour for Roman public projects. Much as we hate to admit it, the history of the modern state of Israel has been scarred again and again by hatred among Jews. The rabbis of the Talmud believed that the Second Temple was destroyed on account of sinat chinom, baseless hatred, and yet we do not seem to learn.

I'm not talking about disputes for the sake of heaven, those arguments recommended to us by the rabbis of the Mishnah. It is good to sit down and try to parse out just what we should be doing about kashrut, or what is the just and ethical and Toraitic way to act in a given situation. It is good to struggle with the texts and the Law, to dig and drash for understanding. And it is no surprise that sometimes, when five of us sit down to drash, seven or eight possible good opinions come from such a discussion.

But where is it written that once we notice that we do not agree, the next thing to do is to get out the knives? So many mitzvot, so many commandments, stand between us and the bad behavior: we are commanded not to gossip, not to embarrass, not to kill. We are not to tell lies, including half-truths, we are not to pick on strangers, including, I would argue, the Jews who are strange to us.

We are a mere 2.5% of the U.S. population. We are an even tinier 0.22% of the population of the world. We need one another.

I'll do better if you'll do better. Better yet, let's do better together.

End of rant.

1 comment:

Bea said...

I'm not going to say that what you say isn't true, but I do rejoice that I live in a community where - for the most part - the rabbis are on the same page and greatly discourage such talk.

Lucky Jew that I am, I pass between Orthodox, Reform, Renewal, Conservative congregations and I feel welcome in all. I love them all. I avoid the occasional grouch, and go where there is tangible joy.

I wish all Jews could feel so in love with Jews as I do. I find that it rubs off onto Christians, Muslims and Zoroastrians.

Maybe I'm having a particularly good day, or a particularly good life, in any case - Baruch HaShem!

May the Holy One teach me to lift up my hands to do good.

Ruttie, I miss your big heart.

It's a warm afternoon and there are doves on the ground by the sukkah. I take that as a very good sign.