The debate between Joel Alperson (Judaism is more than tikkun olam,” Aug. 5) and Eric Yoffie (“Judaism is always tikkun olam — and more”) offered two very different perspectives on whether non-Orthodox movements can survive long-term. And while it’s interesting to read point-counterpoint arguments in our local Jewish newspaper, they have the potential to drive a divisive wedge in our community.
Particularly during this, the Hebrew month of Av, we should focus not on what divides us, but what unites us. We have so much in common, and it’s a terrible shame when we focus on our differences.
There’s a beautiful mitzvah called ahavat Yisrael; it is the commandment to love your fellow Jew. The simple language of the mitzvah is instructive. It doesn’t say to love only those Jews with whom you agree; it says to love them even if you disagree with them. And our sages are practical enough to know that you can’t always bring yourself to feel loving feelings towards another, so we are told that the fulfillment of the mitzvah is to behave lovingly towards each other. Why is this important during the month of Av?
One of the events that our recent day of solemn national mourning and fasting, Tisha B’Av, commemorates, is the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 CE. A primary cause of that destruction is that Jews at the time engaged in sin’at chinam, or baseless hatred, toward each other.
I think that the Seattle Jewish community does a pretty good job at dealing with each other’s differences, but there’s a big gap between simply tolerating each other and behaving with love toward each other. So as we leave Av and enter Elul, our month of introspection leading up to Rosh Hashanah, each of us should resolve to reach out in kindness to another member of our big, diverse Jewish family, so that 5772 is a year of blessing for the Jewish people in Seattle and worldwide.