Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hug a Jew Day

It's so hard to feel love for another when their opinions and views of the world are antithetical to everything we believe in. So what is the alternative? To hate? What has that done for us lately?

I can't help but think of my very close friendship with my editor, my best friend. There is probably nothing we wouldn't do for each other. But when we talk about politics, I swear I want to hit him on the head with my T-Fal frying pan. Suddenly, a wall exists between us and it's fascinating to observe how our loving feelings take a dive as he slams my views and I slam his. It made realize, in a sense, how during WWII neighbor turned on neighbor and families turned on each other because of ideology.

I can’t help but think back to the destruction of the temple and the reason cited for its fall: The hatred Jews showed toward each other. Can any rational mind believe that hate can bring about a positive result? Please cite me an example where calling an opponent a shmuck has won any argument.

In this week's Bible portion we read about the breastplate worn by the kohanim, the priests, of the Temple. On its fa├žade were twelve precious stones, each representing a tribe of Israel. The high priest wore that breastplate over his heart and it symbolized the duty of Jews to love one another regardless of how different, diverse or disenfranchised they might be.

Jewish teachings tell us that when the "Patriarch Jacob left his parents’ house to start his own family, he rested on Mount Moriah, the future site of the Temple, for one night, and placed 12 stones under his head, a symbol of the twelve tribes that he would found. Those twelve stones then merged into one single entity."* Today, we are so fractured. The Kabbalah too, teaches, that there is no blessing on things that are broken, whether it be a cup or a people. In fact, it is in the crack where spiritual impurity enters, just as in the physical world bacteria can fester in a crevice.

Jewish unity is probably more necessary now than ever before. I'm not the one to invent the slogan "United we stand, divided fall." Do we need another Hitler, G-d forbid, to remind us that we are all Jews? With events unfolding in Egypt as they are, the Jewish State is in serious jeopardy. "A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph." (Exodus 1:8) History repeats itself. Will a new leadership in Egypt throw three decades of peace by the wayside?

My dear Jews, how can we be a light unto the nations when we can’t even be a spark of inspiration to each other? If, symbolically, we are each a stone that sustains the "temple," tell me which structure can stand when the stones fight among themselves, and won’t unite in common purpose?

I will make this short so as not to compete with a buffalo wing and the Super Bowl. But my suggestion is to start engaging our fellow Jews as if they were a lover that you want to get into bed. Talk sweetly, talk nicely, make your points wisely with facts and love. You can try and get lucky by screaming them into submission--good luck! Just a reminder--tomorrow is “Hug a Jew Day” (not to be confused with Madoff's “Mug a Jew Day”) My advice to all is "speak softly and don’t carry a big shtick."
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Footnote
* Rabbi Elie Munk, The Call of the Torah, 1994, p.402