Quiet down and quit sniping at each other! It’s time for us to act like grown-ups.
It’s time to learn and accept that some Jews will tend towards more observance and some towards less, and that many on both sides will migrate to the extremes of each.
A lesson from the next two parshiot, weekly Torah readings, starkly touch this issue. Just as Ya’akov, exhausted from twenty years of exile and exploitation by his uncle, Laban (even though it turned out extremely profitable for him, just as many of us have become quite affluent in places like the US and Canada and elsewhere) and repelled by conflict, as he just experienced when his sons, Shimon and Levi avenge the rape of Dinah, their sister, we’re exhausted having recently survived the Holocaust, the expulsion of practically every single Jew from almost every Arab country, the wars of 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, and on and on, not to leave out endless terror attacks. And, like Ya’akov, right now we want little more than to sit quietly (the title itself of the following parsha, וישב, VaYeshev, means to sit, and Rashi explains that Ya’akov merely wanted some ease after years of trial), and enjoy simply living with our families and friends.
We couldn’t get along with each other, as seen with the murderous hatred the brothers had for Yosef, and the result was the Egyptian exile (of course, there are many deep explanation of all this, but at the פשת, pshat, surface level, this is the story). Likewise, leading up to and causing the longest exile, the one still not over, was the plague of שינת חינם, Sinat Chinam, petty hatred, at the time the Second Temple was destroyed.
Yes, Torah represents absolute truth, but no one group, regardless of their claims, today has a pure and full understanding of Torah. We’re all very much off-base, and it benefits no one but our very real enemies to quarrel and condemn over who is the most wrong! Especially at a moment where the modern State of Israel is more threatened, more diplomatically isolated and more internationally hated than any time in her history, we need to file our disagreements in a future file and realize that we’ll either survive united or face disaster divided.
So please, charedi (“ultra orthodox”) and chiloni (ultra secular), orthodox, conservative, reform, renewal, reconstructionist, humanist, agnostic and atheist, all of us together, dial it down and JUST HUSH UP. We are not exile-proof, not disaster-proof.
The stakes are just too big.
What was that film showing stormtroopers destroying a cafe while across the street sat two Jews absorbed in their chess game… The problem seems to be that some people feel the fate of the world depends on their keeping the commandments just the right way. But still they could accept the others. When one is right and the others are wrong, when it’s us vs them, we have the seed of genocide. Judaism should not be that way; we welcome and value the stranger.
The reactiveness at each extreme stimulates the same at the other extreme, a downward cycle which is still avoidable.
It’s similar to an economy–to be healthy it needs a great middle with relatively fewer at the ends.
It’s hard to be in the middle, as the center-right half is told they’re not REALLY religious and those in the center-left half are shamed at being TOO religious.
There is room for more than one “truth” without having to accede to the absurdity that everything is true. In fact, our tradition has many examples of requiring more than a single view of things.