When we light the chanukiah, we celebrate the last triumph of Jewish sovereignty until modern times. As the Rabbis instruct us, baseless hatred put an end to Israel as an independent nation. Historically this is not an idle homily. Jews fought among themselves and could not reconcile their own conflicts. Finally, the Romans did it for them, with disastrous consequences.
We read these lessons. We do not always learn from them. With regard to Israel, I have heard vituperation both from the right and the left. Each side at times seems eager to believe the worse of the other’s motivations, assuming that its own are pure. None of us walks through the world without mud on our boots.
Here’s a project I dream of: to have the leaders of the right and the left commit themselves once a year to giving a speech offering the best case for the other side. It would not only be a forensic exercise; it would be an offering of the heart. There is no trick to tolerance when you don’t care. But is there empathy left in us for the hardest questions? Dare we think, even more a moment, that the other side might have a point?
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).