Let’s Talk

Not yell. Not accuse, or ignore, or get so angry that we lose respect for each other. Or call each other names. Just talk. With respect for each other’s intelligence, humanity, patriotic and/or Jewish bonafides. I understand it isn’t easy all the time. People feel so strongly about the issues. Some folks believe it is literally life and death, that everything is at stake, that if their view point does not carry the day, all will be lost. But isn’t possible – even remotely so – that something I have to say will be of value to you? That something you have to say will be of value to me? That we can learn from each other, grow deeper in wisdom and understanding?

Sadly the climate has become so polarized and politicized. And that rift, that divide, is exacerbated by the insanity of talk radio, the various and sundry pundits yelling and screaming over each other. But we don’t need to copy them. Reasonable heads should prevail. The question is can they? In all of the debates between the schools of Hillel and Shammai in the Talmud (some 350 or so if my memory serves me right) Hillel was favored. Why? Because they were nicer! More respectful. Treated others better. Imagine that. The nice guys finished first.

It helps to have relationships with people. To know them, their families, their hearts, their cares and concerns. That makes it easier to talk, and it makes it easier to agree to disagree if that is what it comes to. I try to stand in the other person’s shoes. What are their concerns? Where are they coming from? Generally you can see it, even feel it, whether you agree or not.

To a certain extent you have to have thick skin to be a rabbi. My feeling is if you are afraid to offend someone when you speak, you might never say anything worth while. Not that it isn’t worth while to tell people to be good, to be moral, to give charity, to be faithful to one another and to God. But shouldn’t the rabbi let people know what he or she thinks the tradition has to say about the pressing issues of the day? Judaism has something to teach us about gun control, abortion, civil rights, racism, torture, the list goes on and on. Shouldn’t we, as Jews, be informed about these issues from the perspective of our own tradition?

So let’s talk. We might surprise each other. And who knows? Maybe you are right, and I am wrong. Stranger things have certainly happened.

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