I read an article today that made me cry. Its title was “I Don’t Want Jewish Unity.” In it, the author described his disinterest in uniting with those whose opinions and perspectives he abhors. He was commenting on the tense political climate in Israel and the vast rifts that have developed in Israeli society which have culminated this week in large-scale protests and clashes in the public square.
In response to the mounting conflict, there have been calls for civility and unity, and the author roundly rejects these appeals, arguing that there is no good reason to unite with those whose attitudes and beliefs are, in his estimation, reprehensible.
These sentiments are not his alone. They are not relegated to Israel or to the Jewish people. There has been a clamor growing for some time here in the US as well which disputes the traditional values of civility, patience, empathy, and tolerance. The notion is that dialogue with those who are ideologically opposed to one’s worldview is unproductive and therefore unnecessary. The only appropriate strategy is strident opposition because there is no efficacy in engagement.
I understand that the author is passionate about his cause. I recognize that he has valid reasons for his grievances and that he may have been deeply offended by those he decries. I may even agree with many of his positions. But where does such a sensibility lead? What happens when we conclude, a priori and without actual exchange, that we not only know precisely what the other believes, but furthermore that his beliefs render him repugnant and unworthy of a place at the communal table?
What happens is further divide and deeper conflict. We will resolve nothing by vilifying those with whom we disagree. We will only contribute to the “sinas chinam/causeless hatred” that destroyed the Temple and precipitated this long and painful exile.
Unity is not the result of agreement or conformity. We do not unite only when we are in lock-step and unanimity. We are One not because we want to be. We are One whether we like it or not, whether we realize it or we don’t. In spite of our superficial and temporal distinctions, unity is our essential nature, as we read in this week’s parsha and as we declare twice daily in the fundamental mantra of our faith, “Shema Yisrael, A-donai E-loheinu, A-donai echad/Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Hashem’s Oneness means that there is nothing other – you and I and all of us are glimmers of one infinite light.
Only when we recognize and accept our unity will we be able to resolve our differences.