Wednesday, July 18, 2012

baseless hatred

We are currently in the period of time known as "three weeks" or "between the straits". This is the time of mourning between two fasts, the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av. On the 9th of Av, both of the Batei Mikdash were destroyed and countless multitudes of Jews were murdered, enslaved and exiled. Traditionally, G-d's punishments follow the pattern of mida keneged mida, or measure for measure. As long as the sin for which we are exiled is not rectified, it is still necessary to remove us from the land of our forefathers and the Third Beit haMikdash is withheld from us.

The reason for this second prolonged exile is sinat chinam, baseless hatred. As a nation, as a whole, we must still be exhibiting this to the degree that prevents us from going back.

Over the years, I wondered about this: do we really hate each other so much? Do we hate people for no reason? I understand that one can hear slander about others and form false opinions. But would you despise your fellow Jew without knowing anything about him?

I had a painful reality call yesterday. I shared the following picture on FB (it's been making rounds):
The sign says: secular, religious, ultra-religious (Jews) are one nation. I thought it was beautiful, especially held by a guy who obviously can belong only to one of those groups. I have been promptly informed that this sign is part of a rally to get orthodox people to serve in the Israel Defense Force (army), who do not serve otherwise. I was a bit confused by that: I have plenty of friends who either did serve, whose husbands serve, or who volunteered to serve. And all these friends are orthodox, practicing Jews. As my friends were waking up in Israel, person by person, they stated as much. The whole conversation was weird, as, on one hand, they were called not orthodox, and, on the other hand, they could not be serving.

I said that if we move to Israel, my two orthodox boys would most definitely serve in the army and work, not even a question. I was told that my kids are not orthodox....

I thought about all of this for a while. I realized that what I brushed against was not a call for unity--let all nation share the joint burden of army service, but against baseless hatred based on false assumptions. The assumption went something like this: if you are calling yourself orthodox, then you must sit in kollel, mooch off the government, avoid serving in the army, have many kids so you can mooch off the government some more, pay no taxes... I am sure that there are people like this. I am sure there are plenty of people like this. I am sure there are many loud-mouthed people like this who like it and want everyone else to like it, too.

But I also know that there are many people who are NOT like this. I know that I bristle every time I have to define myself: I am Jewish, I am Russian, but not really, I am from Moldova, but that is not my defining characteristic, I am a baalat teshuva, but I do not need beginner's minyan, I am orthodox, but not yeshivish, or modern or machmir or whatever else. ( I am so glad that I do not have to fill lout those inane shidduch website forms!)

I wonder how people in Israel would call themselves Charedi ( ultra-orthodox), but do not think like Charedi. How many are secular but deeply traditional. How many are religious, with mystical streaks? One of the things I saw and liked about Israel is that there seemed to be a continuum of observance instead of discrete groups like in America. Is that just an illusion?

I have a feeling when we start hating each other less than others hate us, we will be redeemed.

If you would like to hear what some Charedim have to say about status quo, click here.

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