Sh’ma Yisrael

Dear Jews,

Well, here we are again. Another mass protest, Jew versus Jew. How did we end up back where we started? Didn’t we all go to the polls a year ago asking for more unity, not less? What went wrong?

In my opinion, the key to the past failures and what needs to change in the very near future boils down to three words.

We’re not listening.

This claims is audacious, but in my opinion if we just start listening to each other, we can start to see improvement in the near future. I think this is true because a vast majority of criticism that is being expressed (by all sides, to all sides) is actually correct. I think that if we start to listen to Jews who are different from ourselves with both ears, we can start realizing our own faults and work to fix them. We need to stop being paranoid and afraid of criticism. Someone with low self-esteem will take every critique as a threat. We need to grow out of this paradigm, and start listening to constructive criticism, however painful that may be.

We also need to change the way we talk, in order to make it easier for others to listen. It is very hard for someone to listen to criticism when they are being called a Nazi or a parasite. Obviously most people don’t talk like this, but we also can’t afford to remain silent in the face of extremists who destroy our society with this rhetoric. In addition to criticism, there are many areas where different sectors can gain from each other. For example, the love that the Haredi world shows for its poor, weak and elderly is definitely worth emulating. By sharing positive ideas with others, everybody wins.

The torah commands us to ‘love our neighbors as ourselves’. The Baal Shem Tov explained the deeper meaning of this verse. When people wake up in the morning, what do they see in the mirror? They know they are not perfect, are aware of their faults and yet they still love themselves for all of the good that they represent. We need to start looking at each other like we look at ourselves. Nobody is perfect, yet if we start focusing on the 90% of the glass that is full in others we can establish a society that works to fill the remainder of the glass.

And remember one more thing. We are at one of the highest points in Jewish history right now. We have a strong and secure state, in which most of world Jewry lives. There are also more people learning torah than ever before. We’ve waited well over two thousand years for this opportunity, so lets seize the moment.

Love, Yaakov

About the Author
Yaakov Wolff is a soldier in the IDF. He made Aliyah from Boston to Beit Shemesh in 2007. Before joining the army he studied in Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh. He holds a degree in Middle East Studies from Bar-Ilan University.