Connecting two worlds

Within the world of Torah-observant Jews, it is a shame that we don’t always get along.  The Modern-Orthodox/Dati Leumi and the Yeshivish/Chareidi communities don’t necessarily have much interaction, simply due to the different ways we each may interact with the world.  However, there are times when a single occurrence can cause a person to be judgmental and stereotypical about that entire group. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is a rare occurrence; in fact,I believe it is more common than one may assume.  We look at the external differences between the communities: the Yiddish versus Hebrew/English, the bekishas, streimels, or black hats versus the colored shirts and khaki pants.  We can’t help but focus on our different hashkafot (outlooks on the world), and we may feel as if we disagree about everything.  The truth is, we are more similar than we think.

As a musician and religious Jew, I am always looking for inspiration for a new song, and about ten months ago I got exactly that.  I was driving on the highway just a few days after Tisha B’Av, and a thought popped into my head. I was struck by the fact that over the course of the three weeks of intense mourning over the Beit Hamikdash, we talk a lot about improving our ahavas chinam.  After all, the gemara in Yoma (daf 9) says that the sole reason for the destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash was sinat chinam (baseless hatred).  That being the case, I was struck that I don’t know of any songs that directly address that moral.  Sure, there are songs about achdus, and loving all Jews, but I could think of nothing that emphasized how the Beit Hamikdash will be rebuilt through ahavas chinam.

After recording three albums and remaining virtually unknown, I wasn’t sure I would ever record another song or make another video.  However, once this thought of ahavas chinam entered my mind, I couldn’t imagine not making a song and video about it.  I knew that in order for this to work, the song had to be good, and the video had to be powerful.  I couldn’t settle on mediocre. With the help of my rebbe, Rav Elie Marcus, I was guided to words from Rav Kook that exemplified the message head-on.  The words from Rav Kook translate to, “And if we’ve been obliterated, and the world obliterated with it, by baseless hatred; let’s rebuild, and the world will be rebuilt with it, by unconditional love.”  Out of the 34 songs I have recorded, this was the first and only song in which I ever had to put music to the words.  Aside from this time, I had always written the music first and only then put the lyrics to fit it. After a number of versions that were scratched, I landed upon the one you will hear.  I felt it carries the seriousness of the words, and the optimism that we will soon rebuild the Beit Hamikdash through the acts of ahavas chinam that we Jews will display.

I was satisfied with the song, but I was unsure what the video should portray.  I decided the video should not focus on ahavas chinam between all Jews, although I strongly feel that loving all Jews no matter one’s level of observance or religious affiliation is very important.  Instead I chose to focus on two groups of Jews who both feel they are serving Hashem in the ideal way, and have very different outlooks regarding the way we interact with the world.  The Modern-Orthodox/Tzioni Jews and the Yeshivish/Chareidi Jews do not tend to see eye-to-eye on many issues. At times, the two different outlooks results in protests or altercations that ensue between these groups.  Since both sides essentially want to do the will of Hashem, I wanted this video to focus on the overwhelming similarities these groups share, rather than the issues where we differ.

This video is being supported by over 35 organizations and institutions including the Orthodox Union, World Bnei Akiva, The Religious Zionists of America, One Family Fund, and many more who are going to help spread this important message of ahavas chinam.

I think this video can have a powerful impact when we are able to realize that we aren’t really so different, and we should come together and embrace the other.  We don’t have to agree on every issue; certainly Hillel and Shammai didn’t, and yet, the children of Hillel married the children of Shammai. I would love to see a world where it is a normal occurrence where a “Shalom aleichem!” (“Greetings to you!”) between a chareidi and a tzioni can be exchanged with a big smile.

My hope is that this video can help alter our perceptions, can spark conversations, and can eventually lead to a unification of these two groups of Jews, far closer than ever before.  With the help of Hashem, ultimately every Jew should have unconditional love towards one another, and when that day comes we should be worthy of the arrival of Moshiach.

Feel free to contact me at daveschluss@gmail.com for any questions or comments.

About the Author
I am a teacher at the Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School and a musician.
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