Labels Mean Nothing when Talking about Jews

One Saturday evening last month, when we put on our phones right after Shabbat, we saw the shocking news of what happened in Colleyville Texas. Four Jews had been taken hostage within their Temple, during Shabbat services. It was irrelevant what community the Rabbi represented, or what style service he led. A Jew was in trouble, and that was all that mattered. We all sprang into action, first praying ourselves, and encouraging others to pray as well. 

 It didn’t take long for more information to come out about this Rabbi and his philosophical beliefs. Facebook (knowing everything about me) placed him in my feed as a friend I might know. Indeed, the rumors were true, his worldview and approach to Judaism was fundamentally different than mine on so many levels.

But who cares? What he believes about Israel or gun laws in absolutely no way changes the concern I had for him when he was being held hostage. I care deeply for my fellow Jew, regardless of his denomination or religious association.  

 Labels mean nothing when talking about Jews. They mean even less to our haters.  The fact that I stopped reading the news to pray for the four hostages doesn’t mean that I now agree with their life choices. If your biological brother or sister were held hostage, it would make no difference how much you disagreed. You would pray for them. You would ask others to pray for them. You would be unable to go to sleep knowing they were being held hostage by a crazy Jew hater.  

 There are times when we need to stand strong for what we believe to be right and true and holy. But when a Jew is in need, the only thoughts we should feel is an absolute, undiluted love for our brother in need. 

 We read in the Torah how the Jewish people camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah. Interestingly, the phrase, “they camped,” is not written with the correct grammar for a large plurality of people camping (”vayachanu - and They camped,”) rather it is written in the singular tense (“vayichan - and He camped.”) 

The reason for this grammatical oddity is to tell us about the state of the Jewish people at the moment they reached the desert of Sinai: they were, “Like one man with one heart.”  

 Notice that they still had different minds, ideas, viewpoints, and philosophies. But their hearts were one. Despite different heads, their hearts were one. They were completely united as one person, with absolute care and commitment to the other Jew - the other part of their own body. The only way in which we become worthy of experiencing the greatest Divine revelation man would ever see, is when we are united with “one heart”. 

 I hope as a global and local Jewish community, we will continue to focus on our common thread, of being one Jewish family, despite differences we may have. As a unified community we can and overcome all darkness and hate, and merit an era of light and redemption, may it be in our days, Amen. 




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