Rabbi’s Message: Nov.-Dec. 2016

An America of Freedom, Dissent, Debate, and Love

Kal mi shehou soneh l’adam, k’elu soneh l’mi sheomar v’hayah haolam / One who hates human beings is as one who hates the creator, God.                                                                   Pesiqta Zotarti, Parshat Beha’lotecha

Soneh t’orer m’danim / Hatred stirs up strife.                                                                             Mishley (Proverbs) 10:12

Bnei adam sonim l’davar sheanom m’vinim / People hate what they do not understand.
Moshe Ben Ezra in “Shirat Yisrael”

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
Not just for some but for everyone
“What the World Needs Now” by Hal David and Burt Bacharach


In George Orwell’s political novel 1984, the party members of Oceania go through a daily ritual known as the Two Minutes Hate. In this ritual they are to direct their anger and hatred at film images of Emmanuel Goldstein, the despised leader of the enemies of the party. Party members are whipped up into a frenzy of rage, and they respond viciously as programmed. I couldn’t help but to recall Orwell’s novel and the Two Minutes Hate while watching televised reports of some protestors acting out in an ugly, violent, and destructive manner during protest demonstrations that have occurred following our recent presidential election.

Emotion is a powerful motivator, and hate can be an extremely powerful emotion. However, hate motivates one toward negative outcomes and engenders more hatred at times in response from those whom the hatred is directed at. Hate creates hate, and hate creates divisiveness. We don’t need more hate in our society, instead we need more love.

We are so privileged to live in a free society where the citizens are free to elect the individual who holds the highest office in the nation. We need not like the outcome of an election and we are free to dispute the policies enacted of that leader once he is in office, but always it should be without hatred. I am so thankful that I have the right to vote and the right to dissent. I don’t hate those whom I disagree with. I may at times wish to debate with them. Perhaps I will change their opinions. Perhaps they will change mine. The debate must never be motivated by hate. If it is, why even bother debating? I want to discuss differences instead out of love and concern for our country and its citizens, including my ideological opponent.

 Chanukah is about revolution. The story has violent elements, as the Hashmoniyim (Hasmoneans, or Maccabees) rebelled against their Selucid (Syrian-Greek) occupiers and oppressors. The Maccabees were not motivated by hatred but instead were motivated by a love for Judaism and Jews. Were the Selucids to have left the Jews to freely live as Jews instead of suppressing Judaism and forcibly attempting to make Jews participate in Hellenistic pagan religious rituals, there would have most likely never had even been a revolution and most Jews would have acquiesced to Judea existing under Selucid rule as they did previously under Ptolemy (Egyptian-Greek) rule, which respected and tolerated Jewish religion and life (most peoples lived in vassal states that were part of empires in that era).

When our country was founded through revolution, the motivator was not primarily hatred of Great Britain, as until then most colonists perceived of themselves as British subjects, but instead a love of liberty and freedom and a love for others who were now perceived of as fellow Americans (however, at that point their primary love and loyalty was to the citizens of their former colony, now a state).

It is such a blessing to be an American Jew. In the long history of the Jewish people, no other society has ever offered us the equality, opportunity, and freedom that this blessed nation offers to us and anyone else who wishes to embrace the free ideals and institutions of this great country. We are so blessed to live in an era where we can witness a powerful and independent State of Israel and also enjoy the unique freedoms of being an American.

There is a mitzvah of ahavat Yisroel / to love your fellow Jew. I would like to propose a new mitzvah that I want to call ahavat Amerikiyim / to love your fellow American. At times we certainly need to debate, we need to discuss, and we need to argue to find the right path for our country to travel on for the benefit of all Americans. We need to not take it personally when we hear views we disagree with and to tolerate the opinions of others (of course, there are limits here: those who wish to see the State of Israel eliminated, wish to persecute another because of race, or wish to impose Sharia on America do not hold reasonable opinions to be respectfully discussed). We can agree to disagree but only with love never hate. Love your fellow Jew and love your fellow American.

God Bless America, B’Shalom,