Many Rabbis agree that the main reason for the destruction of the Second Beit Hamikdash (Temple), was Sinat Chinam, Baseless Hatred. I myself have observed how some groups of Jews have a preconceived idea of other groups of Jews. In response to this stereotyping, many Jewish community leaders around the world call for Ahavat Chinam, Baseless Love, and Achdut, Unity.
I hope, through activities I have participated in over the last week, that I have made a dent in this wall of Sinat Chinam and help further an atmosphere of Ahavat Chinam.
Every year on Rosh Chodesh Adar (The first day of the Hebrew Month of Adar), the high school boys at my school, Yeshivat Akiva, have a tradition of going next door to Yeshivas Darchei Torah Elementary and Middle School to sing and dance, and to bring in Chodesh Adar in a joyous and spiritual fashion. We are always graciously welcomed by Darchei Torah’s principal, teachers, and students.
Walking back from Darchei last week, I thought about how I, among a plethora of people with whom I normally interact, never really connect with Jews outside of the Modern Orthodox/Religious Zionist circle on a regular basis.
Last Thursday, I traveled to New York as a Bnei Akiva delegate for the first ever American Zionist Youth Council Seminar. The American Zionist Youth Council is a newly founded zionist group for twelfth graders and college students, who represent six zionist youth groups across the spectrum of religious and secular ideologies. We are brought together to discuss Israel and our thoughts on the Jewish state as young Jews living in the United States. The main goal of this Seminar was to learn about how each of the participating youth groups relate to Israel and how they approach different issues surrounding it. I am proud to say that I learned how people outside of my normal circle connect to Judaism and Israel. Additionally, many of our thoughts about approaches to issues in Israel are different, but we realized that our love for the Jewish State is something that brings us together as Jews, and really helped us connect to one another.
A few days later, when I left New York, I reflected on my experiences over the past week. Once again, I thought about how I really do not interact with people outside of my small circle. That is unfortunate.
Coming back from the seminar and walking back from Darchei, I realized that in order to really live the famous quote from Pirkei Avot 4:1;
בן זומא אומר: איזהו חכם? הלומד מכל אדם
Ben Zoma says: Who is the wise one? He who learns from all people (translation from Sefaria.org)
that I need to branch out and connect with other types of people. Doing this will enable me to learn more about myself, my connection to God, my connection to Jews, and the world in general.
In order to repair the Sinat Chinam that was created thousands of years ago, we need to branch out to other groups of Jews beyond our normal social circles, to explore and celebrate what we have in common, and thereby create Achdut and Ahavat Chinam.