Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we fight like dogs and cats until tragedy strikes? Why does it take the kidnapping of three precious boys to bring us together? It tears my heart that the Jewish world is splintered, fragmented and divided. I have no problem that each one of us has unique minhagim and special ways to serve Hashem but why can’t we respect each other more than we do? Why can’t we realize that it doesn’t matter if a Jewish man wears a black hat, knitted kippa or no hat and no kippa. And women are the same. Some cover their hair, others don’t, some wear long skirts while others find pants more comfortable. Obviously, it is important to observe the Halacha, and it is our responsibility to teach those who do not, but this must be done with love, friendship and lots of tolerance. I always think of my parent’s generation. How many of the religious women covered their hair back in the 1940’s and 50’s? How many weddings had separate seating? How many butcher shops were Glatt Kosher? While I am happy that things have improved, we need to understand that what we have today was built on what was done yesterday – so those things aren’t as bad as you think!
We always do this to ourselves and never learn from our mistakes. During good times we are fighting with the Gabbai, complaining about the Rabbi and pointing fingers at the neighbor’s kid. We are jealous of our friend’s success and complain about everything humanely possible. We don’t like the Yeshiva, the Eruv and even find fault in the shul’s Kiddush (What, no chulent???)! We return from a trip to Israel and kvetch about the traffic in Jerusalem, the price of coffee (more expensive than Starbucks…) and even the weather (how come it’s so hot in that country?). In short, we change the famous Rabbinic teaching of “Say a little and do a lot” to “Appreciate a little and complain a lot”.
And then it happens; tragedy. 3,000 New Yorkers die on 9/11. Hurricane Sandy destroys thousands of homes and lives. And now this one – three teenage boys in Israel are kidnapped as they come home from school. Where are they? How are they? What is happening to them? We run to daven for their wellbeing. We give extra charity, increase our Torah learning, light Shabbat candles early, bake Challahs for the boys and sit quietly in shul. Suddenly, even without noticing it, we do a major thing; We start loving every Jew on the planet! Overnight, our differences disappear and there are no more labels. Who cares about silly terms such as Yeshivish, Modern, Sefardic, Ashkenazic, Chassidic, Haredi or Hiloni??? Those are all gone. Instantly, we are simply the Jewish Nation. We are one people, serving one God and begging Him to have mercy on Eyal, Naftali and Gilad. All the walls of division are gone as we also pray for the holy soldiers who are risking their lives searching for the boys. The same 100,000 Jews who demonstrated in Manhattan – just a few weeks ago – against the draft are now davenning for the Israeli army to succeed in its mission.
In addition to the above, another magical thing happens. We stop calling the Jewish complaint department. We become thankful for what we have and we see the good in everything we do. Trivial complaints – which used to ruin are entire day – are deleted and we say “Baruch Hashem” even though our back is killing us. We look at the parents of these beautiful boys and realize what they are going through. After that, the high priced coffee in Mamilla or long lines at the supermarket mean absolutely nothing.
My question is simply “WHY”?? Why can’t we live like this all the time? Why can’t we live in a Jewish world where we respect every brother and sister we have and not cast evil eyes upon them? Every mother and father wants their children to get along – so isn’t the same thing true with our Father in heaven? While I don’t claim to know anything about Hashem, I feel certain that He wants His children to respect one other. Obviously, His children are different, that’s perfectly ok – as long as those differences don’t cause internal wars. I feel that when they get out of hand, Hashem reminds us of the need to live and act as one, by sending some tragedy which brings us all closer. The trick is to try to be united without the tragedy!
Therefore, here is what I recommend. In addition to everything else you are doing to help tip the scales in favor of the boys, take upon yourself an oath that you will stop dividing between Jews. From this day forth you will accept all Jews with love and tolerance and will welcome every Yid with a warm and gentle smile – especially the ones that don’t look or dress like you. You must also stop complaining and start living a life of “Gam Zu L’Tova” – that everything that happens is for the good. Make these pledges now and keep them, even when this horrible kidnapping story is over. Let’s show Hashem that we are truly one family and that we don’t need tragedies to keep us close. Make that commitment today!