How we treat each other in all of our relationships is what distinguishes one person from another. Yesterday Jewish people fasted, remembering destruction in our history because of the disrespect towards our fellow human beings.
My mother Irene also had some wisdom about the fast and meaning:
We are human on the inside,
As my summer travels draw to a close, I’m reflecting on the Jewish experience I’ve had.
I’ve tried to do as much as I could: I spent Israeli Shabbos with totally secular people (while still being Shabbos observant), Modern Orthodox who are trying to reshape the status quo, Modern Orthodox couple whose wife teaches children to read from the Torah in women’s minyan, a yeshivish couple, a group of only Orthodox girls who had me read kiddush. I hung out with Women of the Wall; I hung out at the Belz shul in Jerusalem. On my first Shabbos back in the US, I stayed with the nicest Hasidic family in the world.
I’ve tried to meet as many different kinds of Jew as possible. Some of the above were Russian, some Mizrachi, some Ashkenazi, some Persian, some Yiddish-speakers. They were at different levels of observance, different levels of knowledge, different levels of attachment.
And I’ve realized one thing: we aren’t THAT different. We say kiddush the same, and we have the same references that pepper our language. We all enjoy shnitzel; we all had mezuzahs on our doors.
But I’ve heard a lot of denigrating talk.
“Those Haredi are the WORST! They have so many children and want to make us all dogmatic and rob us of critical thinking.”
“The secular are a plague. They want to secularize the state of Israel and take away our religion entirely.”
And everyone thinks they’re right. But have you ever heard of aveirah l’shma (a sin for the sake of G-D)? Where you do something knowing it’s wrong but hoping it will bring you closer to G-D?
Now, sometimes this stuff is downright crazy. People do stupid things sometimes. But if you think that talking to secular Jews is a sin, I invite you to maybe engage in conversation with one and invite one to your shul sometime. If you’re Reform/Conservative/Recon/etc and bash on Orthodox Jews (you deny it, but I’ve heard it) maybe take an one out to a kosher restaurant sometime. Maybe afterwards you’ll end up at someone’s house for Shabbos and maybe you’ll see that you’re doing a greater mitzva by singing and davening together than ignoring each other entirely.
Have an easy fast. May we merit to live lives of rejoicing and learning rather than mourning.