Rabbi Hillel once asked: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”
But this rhetorical question does not just apply to the individual; it also applies to the Jewish people as a nation. Despite our differences, we are ONE people under ONE G-d. If we are not for each other, who will be for us? History has provided us with the bloody answer. The rabbis have indeed taught that the Second Temple was destroyed because of sinat chinam, groundless hatred for one another. It makes perfect sense. How can a can a temple or any structure stand when its supporting stones fight between themselves? And further, how do Jews expect anyone to like them or respect them when they are so busy hating each other?
Often on the blogosphere I will see conservative Jews asked by others why Jews tend to vote Liberal and their proud reply is: “Because they are self-destructive idiots.” Or a Liberal Jew will be asked why Orthodox Jews don’t serve in Israel’s Defense Forces, and the tart reply will be: “Because they are Nazis.” And, as if Jews don’t have enough people calling them lovely names, the adjectives that come to define the Jew become ever-darkened by lazy, irresponsible, stigmatic name calling sealed by the fact that another Jew said it. Maybe the Liberals vote as they do because of a history or persecution; maybe the religious won’t serve in the military because of certain religious beliefs and indoctrination. Maybe our fellow Jews’ positions deserve a little more respect than simply selling them out with a derogation so others will accept us, or to make ourselves look better, or to safely distance ourselves publically from what we regard as idiocy. The loose definitions that we throw into the blogosphere, Twittersphere or any sphere to define the “other” Jew who is not like us marks not only the intended target but every Jew. We may deem ourselves sharpshooters but the boomerang effect is inevitable. A spot on any Jewish face is a blemish on our collective face.
After President Obama won the election and re-election, many “accused” the Jews of delivering him victory. I’m a Jew; I surely didn’t vote for him and many other Jews didn’t as well. Nonetheless, the collective Jew put him in the White House. When Madoff was arrested every Jew was a Ponzi schemer; when Pollard was arrested every Jew was a spy with dual loyalties; after the Six Day War, every Jew was a hero. Whether “modern” Jews want to believe it or not the Talmud was right: “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh” (all Jews are responsible for one another).
What has set me off in particular most recently was the attempt to ban gay Jews from marching in the Israel Day Parade. Now as an Orthodox woman myself, I’m not an advocate of homosexuality—not because of any visceral reaction against it, just as I have no visceral reaction against shopping on the Sabbath. What deems them both wrong to me is simply the fact that the Torah says so. That being said, I did have a visceral reaction to this exclusionary effort pitting Jew against Jew. The Mishna says, “Hevei mekabel et kol adam b’sever panim yafot” (greet every person pleasantly with a kind face). I was not aware that the Talmud has since been revised.
Are gays not Jews too? If those against participation by the gay community needed life-saving surgery and only a gay Jewish doctor could save their life, would they pick death instead? We don’t have to condone homosexuality, but the Talmud teaches that we don’t know which sin or mitzvah is the biggest or smallest. So would they ban people who don’t go to mikvah from marching or those who don’t keep kosher? Those too are sins. There are gay Israeli soldiers risking their lives daily so that we can have the freedom to practice our religion and be Jews. Were these opponents there to stand with gavel in hand to judge who was Jewish enough for them to march for Israel? I strongly maintain that if we were all Jewish enough for Hitler to kill, then we should be Jewish enough for each other.
This article is not meant to advocate homosexuality; it is meant to advocate ahavas yisroel (Jew loving Jew). If we are to survive as a people, let’s make our good great and our bad better and stand only in judgment of ourselves. That is the Jewish way! United we stand and divided we end up lighting more yahrzeit candles.