Wednesday, July 06, 2005

YEHUDI LO MEGAREISH YEHUDI

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

In the current campaign in Israel that seeks to block Ariel Sharon’s unilateral Gaza disengagement plan, one of the slogans reads, “Yehudi Lo Megareish Yehudi, One Jew doesn’t evict another Jew.”

I have seen so many pictures of signs and bumper stickers all over Eretz Yisroel with that expression printed on them that finally they have made some sort of impression on me and forced me to think. What do those words really mean and what are they trying to accomplish by plastering them all over the country? Is there a message in them for us here on the opposite side of the ocean?

The first reaction is that the slogan doesn’t mesh with reality –certainly in Israel today, it is little more than wishful thinking to say that a Jew does not evict another Jew.

Bluntly stated, Jews do evict Jews. The Israeli army is undergoing an intense campaign to do just that, evicting Jews from their homes in Gaza in order to fulfill a politician’s promise. Even as bumper stickers and street signs proclaim that Jews do not do such things, young Israeli Jewish soldiers beat and arrest young Israelis sympathetic to the settler cause. Last week 150 Jewish people were evicted from Gaza because the authorities wanted them out of the way.

The sad truth is that Yehudi Kein Megareish Yehudi, but the slogan at least offers a utopian hope and expresses the way things should be.

Perhaps the day has come when Jews will begin to treat each other a little better. Perhaps the day has come when Yehudi aino medaber rah l’Yehudi. Is there any reason why that level of harmony should not materialize in our own day? We could make it happen by endeavoring to speak more nicely to each other, by being more considerate and doing whatever we can to come to one another’s aid.

Perhaps there should be a campaign to restore civility to public and private discourse.

If we have a disagreement with someone, it doesn’t have to bring us down into the gutter. We don’t have to get adversarial, vilifying the other party, castigating and cursing them. After all, aren’t we all brothers and sisters?

There is a proper and dignified way to say anything which needs to be said. We ought to master that way of communicating.

Not everyone with whom we disagree is a villain, and not everyone whose motives we question deserves to be excommunicated. At least give the person the benefit of the doubt and offer them an opportunity to explain themselves before jumping to conclusions.

We can disagree without becoming mortal enemies. Just because we don’t see eye to eye on everything doesn’t mean we can’t talk to each other. If someone dresses a little different than we do, does that mean that the person should be rejected as if he were an alien from another planet?

Imagine if we would begin distributing bumper stickers with messages such as, “Ahl tadun chaveircha ahd shetagiah limkomo”? How about if we hung signs from our windows proclaiming the immortal words, “Ve’ahavta lerayacha kamocha”?

Would we be accused of being nebs, weirdos and the like? On the other hand, maybe it would prompt people to stop and think about how they are behaving.

Maybe if we had a bumper sticker that urged, “Kol devarecha yihyoo benachas” on the rear of your car, the guy behind you wouldn’t beep incessantly when you paused for a moment to let your son out of the car. And maybe, if the bumper sticker reminded you to “Be A Mentch,” people would actually stop to let you make a left turn into the intersection.

Are we all that bad? Certainly not! Though the few rotten apples ruin it for the entire bunch, and give the whole community a bad name, the vast majority of people are good, and kind and courteous. However, even they can benefit from trying to become better. There is no better time to start than now, in the summer, when everyone is calmer.

Rosh Chodesh Tamuz heralds the fast day of Shiva Assar B’Tamuz and the ensuing period of the tragedy-laden “three weeks.” These weeks are the international Jewish time of sadness. We mourn the destruction of the batei mikdosh and the pogroms, crusades, calamities and auto da fetes in our history that number too many to count.

As we go through the bein hametzorim, and mourn the churbanos and tragedies that befell our people throughout the ages, we need to do more than just refrain from haircuts and listening to music. We need to do more than grieve. We need to implement change. We have to try to engender a renewal. We have to conduct ourselves in a way that will lead to the rebuilding of the mikdosh and Yerushalayim. We need to turn the negative occasions into positive ones; aivel and yagon into simcha and sasson.

Our actions have consequences; the way we act towards each other impacts our lives and affects the way Hashem acts towards us. Chazal teach that the Beis Hamikdosh was destroyed as a punishment for sinas chinom, the baseless hatred from which the Jews of the Temple period suffered. If the batei mikdosh have not yet been rebuilt, it signifies that we are still found wanting by Hashem in the area of bein odom l’chaveiro.

Let’s take a step towards contributing to the construction campaign of the bais hamikdosh hashelishi by watching how we treat each other. Let’s remove malice from our hearts and hatred from our lips. Every time we treat a fellow Jew charitably, every time we give another person the right of way; every time we bite our tongues and refrain from derogatory speech, we are adding a grain of sand to the big cement mixer up in Heaven which is preparing the bayis hashelishi.

When we behave in a civil manner towards each other we are demonstrating that we are indeed ready for the final redemption. When we admonish without hate, we send a signal to shomayim that we have learned our lesson and no longer need a mournful Tisha B’Av to galvanize us to repair our ways.

When we rescue one another from difficult straits; support each other with kindness and courteousness; when we reach out to each other with brotherly love and respect, we demonstrate that we are worthy of being the recipients of Divine largesse.

When “Yehudi Lo megareish Yehudi” becomes a way of life and not just an empty slogan, we will be lifted on kanfei nesharim to the eternal land and bayis from which we will never be evicted.

May we all merit that experience, b’mheirah b’yomainu omain.

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