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Poisoned Wells

07/21/2022 09:28:46 AM


Rabbi Scott Hausman -Weiss

To listen to Rabbi Scott read his blog, click HERE

About a month ago, three American Jewish families from a Conservative synagogue were celebrating their children’s B’nai Mitzvah in the Egalitarian section of the Western Wall when Haredi (Jewish fundamentalists) teenagers disrupted and defamed these families’ sacred moments. These families were holding their simchas (joyous events) NOT in the main part of the Western Wall plaza, but in the space immediately south of there, designated as “Egalitarian” – where men and women can assemble together in prayer; where women can read and sing and celebrate aloud; a space that does not fall under the “jurisdiction” of the Orthodox authorities. Nonetheless, liberal Jews from all over the world have too often suffered the slings and arrows of our fellow Jews, who have decided that not only is the notion of Tikun Olam anathema to what Judaism really stands for, but far more ancient central premises of Jewish faith do not apply as well.

.וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵעֲךָ֖ כָּמ֑וֹךָ

Love your fellow as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18)

.דַּעֲלָךְ סְנֵי לְחַבְרָךְ לָא תַּעֲבֵיד — זוֹ הִיא כׇּל הַתּוֹרָה כּוּלָּהּ, וְאִידַּךְ פֵּירוּשַׁהּ הוּא, זִיל גְּמוֹר

What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah, all the rest is commentary, go and learn it. (Shabbat 31a)

.לִשְׁמֹר אֶת דֶּרֶךְ עֵץ הַחַיִּים, דֶּרֶךְ, זוֹ דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ, וְאַחַר כָּךְ עֵץ הַחַיִּים, זוֹ תּוֹרָה

The way of decency precedes Torah. (this is an interpretation based on a verse from Genesis as understood in the Midrash Vayikra Rabbah – (if you’d like to understand it on a granular level, let me know!)

This is an extremely cursory list of Jewish injunctions towards kindness, gentility, and compassion. The Torah begins with creation of human beings, and our concomitant responsibility to discover the divine image in every ONE. And while Jewish tradition is lived in the particularness of Jewish ritual and commandment, over, and over, and over again, our ancient sages insist that Decency supersedes them all. Not that it is enough, but that without it, all our other efforts are berachot l’vatala, blessings made in vain.

We Jews like to see ourselves as survivors. But surviving is not living, and it gives far too great a license to act with impunity. To act, as we say in Hebrew, k’ilu, as if our lives are on the line. The trouble with this is it’s a far too easy off-ramp to excess; far too easily given to an expression of victimhood, that releases one of responsibility. Assuredly, this is not to suggest that there aren’t times when life is truly at stake, but an effort towards unbiased observation and honest assessment prior to acting, is what prayer and meditation and freedom truly mean.

These were violent acts perpetrated by Jews against their FELLOW Jews. Even without blood drawn, these were violent because of the permanent, if but invisible scars they inflicted on the victims and on the perpetrators as well. I pray that these young Haredi boys find their way to teshuvah, repentance. But even more greatly, that their rebbes do the same. For children do not arrive at such actions without adults who poison the well from which they drink.

Wed, April 17 2024 9 Nisan 5784