I’m so sick of hearing about anti-Semitism it makes me barf. Excuse me, but it’s true. And I don’t care much about it one way or the other. It’s no threat to the Jewish people, as I see it. It’s part of our history, always has been. In the end, one might argue that anti-Semitism is the cause of the Jewish Genius, due to the idea that necessity is the mother of invention. So be it.
But there does exist a pernicious form of anti-Semitism very close to home, right at the heart of our people, and that is Jew vs. Jew.
What is anti-Semitism? It is the negative pre-judgement of an individual or group based upon their Jewish identity. And it applies just as much if the hater is him or herself a member of the Tribe. That is the only form of anti-Semitism to really worry about, or even care about. In my opinion.
Because it can kill us. I write this after this year’s Tisha B’Av has come and gone, with nary a change in the course of the Jewish river as it flows through time. But an election is looming, and with it the prizes of power that bestow influence, and of course, money, to the victors.
And of all the tectonic faults that lie at the core of our Land, the rift between the Haredim and the Hilonim (secular) is by far the most dangerous. It is our super-fault, our San Andreas, our Pompeii. Perhaps you think I’m being melodramatic. But consider the story of the destruction of the Second Temple. Consider the factionalism, the wasting of resources, the heart-rendering destruction each segment of society sought to wreak upon its neighbors. Only the Jews can destroy the Jews. And so we did, then. Will we do so again?
Who is as fault, in creating this chasm? What is at fault? Is it religion itself? Should we, as John Lennon preached, “Imagine no religion?” In Israel? IN JERUSALEM? GOD FORBID!!!!!
And yet — it certainly is the religion that is causing the ever deepening sinkhole in our social and political fabric.
So what do we do? I propose a solution. There is a part of Torah, a large part, that we can all pretty much all agree on. It is the part that contains the laws “between humans.” The halacha can be divided into two sections, as the Shulchan Aruch itself does — to distinguish between laws between humans and laws between humans and God. Let us not focus publicly, and in public policy, on the latter, and leave that up to individuals to create their communities as they see fit.
Remember the story from Talmud Bavli 31a when the Babylonian man comes to convert on the condition that Hillel the Elder could teach him the entire Torah while he stood on one foot? Hillel said: “What is hateful to you, don’t do to anyone else, that is the entire Torah — the rest is commentary — now go learn!”
This should be the concentration of our Jewish policies. Not Kashrut. Not even Shabbat.
But let us concentrate hard on Love thy neighbor. Let our esteemed yeshivot and seminaries focus on the laws between people, and let that be the focus of their outreach. Of course Shabbat and Kashrut are key elements of a Jewish life. But I maintain that it is possible to keep a Torah life which de-empahasizes the importance of those in order to have at the forefront of our Jewishness the idea that “karma” for lack of better English term is real. God, in fact, is real. And God is more concerned with how we treat each other than with what we put in our mouths.
I mean this quite sincerely. Let us nationalize the laws of Torah — according the Halacha, with all of our esteemed scholars, in the areas of Bein Adam L’Chaveiro. But let us leave the rest to private institutions only — and out of government.
Let our people heal. Let us become one again.
I speak to my Orthodox brothers and sisters when I say I know you will regard my proposal as heresy, and coming from a “post-rabbinical” Jew (as I am) you will no doubt disregard it is a Torah thought. However, consider this. While you might say my proposal deigns to divide the Torah into two sections, which cannot be done, as the Torah is One. I would counter, yes, you are correct, but I would still prefer the people be one and the Torah rent into bits than the other way around. If the purpose of Torah is the preserve the people, then what do we do when it is tearing them apart?
עת לעשות לה׳ הפרו תורתך