Tag Archives: respect

Learning Smallness

smallThe words of the wise are heard with pleasantness.

Ecclesiastes 9:17

The Talmud states that on Friday afternoon, a person must alert his household to prepare the necessities for Shabbos. However, he must do so in a soft voice, so that his words will be obeyed.

Many late Friday afternoons, people feel themselves under pressure while rushing to prepare for Shabbos. If one sees that some things have not yet been done, it is easy to lose composure and scream at other members of the household. The Talmud cautions against doing so and implies that shouted instructions are less likely to be carried out.

A politician who had concluded an address inadvertently left a copy of his speech on the lectern. In the margins were comments indicating manners of delivery, e.g. “gesture,” “clap hands,” “slow and emphatically,” etc. At one point he had written, “Argument awfully weak here. Scream loudly.”

If we have something of substance to say, the message will be adequately conveyed in a soft tone, because the content alone will carry it. Only when our words have little substance do we seek to make an impression by delivering them with many decibels.

Even in situations of great urgency, we have no need to lose our composure. I can attest that when life-threatening emergencies presented themselves in the hospital, greater efficiency and more rapid response ensued when everyone kept a cool head.

The words of Solomon are correct. The wise speak pleasantly, and those who shout may not be wise.

Today I shall…

…keep my voice soft and pleasant at all times, especially when I have something urgent to communicate.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Tammuz 4”
Aish.com

That isn’t easy to do. A sudden surge of adrenalin as you see a small child run into traffic after a ball will make just about anyone yell, “Stop!” Of course, under that circumstance, a raised voice is perfectly understandable and justified, but most of the time when we raise our voices or otherwise try to push our weight around, it’s not.

Although we don’t generally have audible “voices” in the blogosphere, nevertheless, we tend to “yell” at each other. As Rabbi Twerski taught in the above-quoted paragraphs, human beings tend to yell the loudest when our positions are the weakest. We tend to attack others when we feel insecure about ourselves.

What should we do instead?

The Alter Rebbe writes in his Siddur: It is proper to say before prayer, I hereby take upon myself to fulfill the mitzva – “Love your fellowman as yourself.” This means that the precept of ahavat yisrael is the entry-gate through which man can pass to stand before G-d to daven. By merit of that love the worshipper’s prayer is accepted.

“Today’s Day”
Monday, Tammuz 2, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

Sounds sort of like this:

He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40 (NRSV)

forgive-nudnikI’ve wasted a certain amount of time being unkind lately. I’d like to say that I’ll never make that mistake again but I probably will. It’s a mistake because what I say won’t change people unless they want to change. It’s a mistake because what I’ve said does nothing to make me a better person. It’s a mistake because what I’ve said has distanced me from people I truly love.

I struggle between leaving the others who are sometimes abrasive to walk their path and the desire to inject a word of justice into unkind conversations.

But it never works out well for me or for anyone and it is not a path to God.

What is?

Nothingness is the medium through which all energy moves, from above to below and from below to above.

Below, in the human heart, a sense of nothingness that transcends ego. Above, a Nothingness that transcends all boundaries and planes.

The nothingness below fuses with the Nothingness above, locking heaven and earth in an intimate embrace.

That is why G‑d is found amongst the truly humble.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Nothingness”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Moses was considered the most humble man on earth (Numbers 12:3) and yet Israel considers him their greatest prophet. Most of the “loud voices” on the Internet today (including mine) aren’t particularly concerned with humility and in fact, humility frightens them because they (we, I) consider it equivalent to being “nothing.” However as we’ve seen, nothingness is a desirable trait. So is being small, as Rabbi Freeman also teaches:

“Rebbe!” the man cried. “Nobody gives me respect! Everybody steps all over me and my opinions!”

—“And who told you to fill the entire space with yourself, so that wherever anyone steps, they step on you?”

hero-largeI think part of my desire to inject justice into other online realms is related to the sense of smallness. I experience being stepped on or seeing others step on those who I care about and I become indignant, like the person who cried out, “Rebbe! Nobody gives me respect!” I need to relearn humility as a desirable trait and as a result, learn to stop being concerned with the opinions and petty slights of others.

I mean, it’s not like I’m unaware of the humility of our Fathers or of my own experiences learning humility. If I focus on those areas where I need to improve and strive to encounter God with more dedication, I won’t have time to be concerned about the thoughts and opinions of others who seem to continually feel offended. I also may avoid offending those people I consider friends who may be hurt by what I say and do.

I suppose that at some point, maybe even fairly soon, I’ll encounter someone saying something that I object to and the temptation to respond will overwhelm my good sense. I pray that God will guard me from such a time and such individuals and most of all, guard me from my own foolishness in thinking that I must engage such people or express my own small opinion. The only thing I must do is to diminish in the Presence of God, and allow Him to overflow into the spaces I create in me.

Make yourself small and you will be great.

Know you are nothing and you will be infinite.

At the very least, don’t make such a big deal of yourself
and you will be all that much closer to the truth.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Small and Infinite”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

May God turn my heart and mind to Him alone and accustom me to seek the company of righteous people who are uplifting and inspiring. By being the lowest, sitting at the bottom of the abyss, I can only pray that He will one day raise me up to see light again.

 

Chukat: Walking Into Darkness

extinguished_candle

“I don’t get no respect.”

-Rodney Dangerfield

“Rebbe!” the man cried. “Nobody gives me respect! Everybody steps all over me and my opinions!”

—“And who told you to fill the entire space with yourself, so that wherever anyone steps, they step on you?”

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Smaller”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

The Torah states:

“And Moshe and Aharon gathered the Assembly (the whole of the Jewish people) before the rock and he (Moshe) said to them, ‘Hear now, you rebels.’ ” (Numbers 20:10).

Was Moshe correct to call them rebels?

Dvar Torah for Chukat
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
quoted by Rabbi Kalman Packouz
Aish.com

I don’t think most of us could blame Moses for losing his temper every once in a while. After all, for almost forty years, he’s had to put up with millions of grumpy, ungrateful, temperamental, and complaining people. He’s worried about getting them to where God wants them to go. He’s worried that they’ll complain again resulting in a plague that will kill tens of thousands of them. He’s worried that some upstart will challenge his and Aaron’s authority. And as we see in this week’s Torah portion, he’s got to watch his brother and sister die.

It’s not easy being Moses. No wonder he also gets grumpy from time to time. No wonder he called the Israelites “rebels,” whether they deserved it on that occasion or not. He’s not getting a lot of respect, given that he’s the greatest prophet ever to arise out of Israel.

And we know that based on the incident recorded in Numbers 20, he loses the right to enter the Land alongside Israel, his brothers, his children. But what did he do that was so wrong?

The Dvar Torah quoted by Rabbi Packouz continues:

The Midrash tells us that whoever serves as a leader of the Jewish people must be very careful how he addresses them. According to one opinion — because Moshe said, “Hear now, you rebels,” he was told, “Therefore, you shall not bring the assembly into the Land which I have given them” (Bamidbar 20:12).

The prophet Yeshayahu (Isaiah) said to the Almighty, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). For this statement he was severely punished.

The prophet Eliyahu (Elijah) said to the Almighty, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the Children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant” (1 Kings 18:10). He was severely punished for his statement.

Rabbi Avuhu and Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish were traveling to a certain town. Rabbi Avuhu asked Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, “Why should we go to a place of blasphemers?” Upon hearing this, Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish strongly reprimanded Rabbi Avuhu and told him, “God does not want us to speak evil about the Jewish people.” (Yalkut Shimoni 764)

Moses-Mount-NeboIf you are a Christian, you may be asking yourself what makes the Jewish people so special that they shouldn’t be criticized? After all, God criticized the Israelites on more than one occasion up to and including circumstances that led to the death of thousands. Is this midrash even valid? Why should we pay attention?

Let’s expand the viewpoint a bit. God entrusted Moses with a great responsibility: to lead the Children of Israel to the Promised Land and, failing that, to lead them in the desert for four decades, teaching them God’s commandments and ordinances and preparing the next generation to enter into and conquer the Land.

You can’t do that without respect but more importantly, you can’t do that unless you love and respect those you are leading. This lesson is easily applied to anyone in leadership. It can be applied to a Pastor, a Priest, a boss, a parent, a teacher, a writer, anyone who has an audience that depends on the “leader” for guidance in some fashion. That usually means all of us at one point or another in our lives.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle.

James 3:1-2 (NRSV)

I don’t know anyone who is perfect in speech, least of all me.

One of the reasons I stopped teaching at my former congregation and subsequently resigned from leadership was because of this verse. I felt that I was not aptly qualified for the position (though no one seemed to complain). I am not formally trained in theology and my conclusions can certainly be wrong. As a blogger exploring my own personal and spiritual “space,” I’m not actually a teacher and all I’m doing really is just chronicling my daily exploration into my relationship with God.

But it’s not as simple as that. If anyone reads what I write and accepts what I write, I have a responsibility to that person. If they can find fault in what I am presenting, I need to look at that comment, take it seriously, and if I see that they are correct, make a correction within me, and then reflect it back out on my blog.

Rabbi Pliskin, as quoted by Rabbi Packouz, shows us several examples of why midrash believes the crime of Moses against the Children of Israel was speaking evil against the Jewish people. He failed to show love and respect to those who God loves and respects. Moses had been called the most humble man in the world (Numbers 12:3) and I believe that is a qualification that great leaders should possess.

It’s kind of hard to find humility on the Internet and particularly in the blogosphere. It’s difficult to always suppress “ego” on the web.

I suppose I could go into specifics about who said what about whom, but what would be the point? Every time I allow myself to enter into one of those conversations, the only one who gets “beaten up” is me, and I did it to myself. No, that’s not quite true. Anyone who is associated with me, even by the thinnest of threads, is also hurt by my behavior. Although it’s not my intent, those who are considered my “friends” or “allies” are dragged down into the mud hole that I created simply because I didn’t ignore temptation. In that way, I continue to provide a disservice to the Messiah and continue to create distance between me and those I care about. My words and opinions are my own. I’m not anyone’s puppet. But I’ll never convince some people of that, so the damage is done anyway.

Winston_Churchill_1941But who cares about all the mud slinging on the Internet? What does it matter if one person has an opinion and I have another? Sadly, a good many people. Winston Churchill once said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Churchill also said “The British nation is unique in this respect: they are the only people who like to be told how bad things are, who like to be told the worst.”

While criticism doesn’t have to be a lie, for some reason lies, criticisms, and gossip seem to travel farther and faster than truths and complements. I disagree with Churchill that only the British people like to hear bad news, I think most people like to hear bad news, at least if it’s about someone else. Just hop on the Internet and go to several of the major news sites. What sort of news dominates the headlines? Bad news. Why not good news? Good news doesn’t sell, but a good scandal, disaster, or crime story will attract readers in droves.

How many people comment on a good, wholesome, inspirational blog post vs. one that is filled with criticism, controversy, and hostility? A “mean-spirited” blog post is like a big car crash. It’s horrible to look at but it draws people in herds.

Is that what I’m supposed to be “selling” on my blog as a disciple of the Jewish Messiah…bad news? Am I supposed to contribute gossip and “tell tales out of school,” even tangentially when I comment on another’s blog?

The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.

Proverbs 26:22 (KJV)

For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

James 3:7-8 (NRSV)

If you can’t say something nice… don’t say nothing at all.

-Thumper, quoting his father
Bambi (1942)

As believers, we have to be particularly mindful of what we’re saying and why. This is especially true of me since I am acutely aware of my own failures because of participating in areas on the web that have done harm to others. By my participation, I’m part of creating that harm. Why am I doing this? Am I seeking my own gratification at the expense of another human being? That’s not my intent and in fact, that’s exactly what I am trying to speak against.

Among Rabbi Pliskin’s numerous and highly useful quotes, there is this:

If your mind is focused on an insignificant incident, it can destroy your happiness if you allow it to. To feel happy, your mind has to be free of pains and misfortunes.

Learn to differentiate between productive thinking about problems as a means of solving them, and counterproductive dwelling on misfortunes which gains nothing positive and destroys your quality of life.

praying-aloneVery often people who appear very angry, or self-righteous, or abusive are actually very hurt. The problem is, it is very difficult to get past “angry” in order to help “hurt.” The first best way we can help someone like that is to find a way to reach the “hurt” part of them and help them learn to heal. I’d like to do that but my efforts almost always backfire so I guess I should stop.

As writers, we have a teaching function, whether we want it or not. Therefore, if the role is upon us, we should carefully choose our topics and our words so that we can be as encouraging and as uplifting as possible while still getting our point across. We should also question the motivation for making our points and verify that we are not deliberately trying to hurt someone else because we believe they hurt us (whether they actually did or not).

The audience or consumers of blogs should also be mindful of the function of writers and teachers as well as our limitations and faults and keep in mind that just because we put something on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s right. It may not be right in terms of being factual and it may not being right in terms of moral correctness (even if it is factual).

Moses may well have been factual when he called the Children of Israel “rebels,” but at least according to midrash, he was absolutely wrong morally in doing so.

Blowing out someone else’s candle won’t make yours shine any brighter.

-Anonymous

In fact, if you have to blow out someone else’s candle for the sake of your own, chances are you are walking in darkness anyway. The sun is setting and it’s getting harder to see. It would be comforting to see the lights of the Shabbos candles as I walk into darkness, but as a writer, disciple, and just one lone human being, I have miles to go before I have any hope of illumination.

Good Shabbos.

103 days…or 32 days. Still making up my mind.

The Image of the Holy

[If a criminal has been executed by hanging] his body may not remain suspended overnight … because it is an insult to God.
Deuteronomy 21:23

Rashi explains that since man was created in the image of God, anything that disparages man is disparaging God as well.

Chilul Hashem, bringing disgrace to the Divine Name, is one of the greatest sins in the Torah. The opposite of chilul Hashem is kiddush Hashem, sanctifying the Divine Name. While this topic has several dimensions to it, there is a living kiddush Hashem which occurs when a Jew behaves in a manner that merits the respect and admiration of other people, who thereby respect the Torah of Israel.

What is chilul Hashem? One Talmudic author stated, “It is when I buy meat from the butcher and delay paying him” (Yoma 86a). To cause someone to say that a Torah scholar is anything less than scrupulous in meeting his obligations is to cause people to lose respect for the Torah.

Suppose someone offers us a business deal of questionable legality. Is the personal gain worth the possible dishonor that we bring not only upon ourselves, but on our nation? If our personal reputation is ours to handle in whatever way we please, shouldn’t we handle the reputation of our nation and the God we represent with maximum care?

Jews have given so much, even their lives, for kiddush Hashem. Can we not forego a few dollars to avoid chilul Hashem?

Today I shall …

… be scrupulous in all my transactions and relationships to avoid the possibility of bringing dishonor to my God and people.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Av 17”
Aish.com

This is an excellent point we Christians should learn. Yesterday, I commented about the intrinsic interweaving of loving God, loving other people, and loving ourselves. Rabbi Twerski’s commentary builds on that and shows us that what we do, for good or for ill, reflects upon the name of God. If we do good, God’s Name is elevated, even among the unbelieving nations. If otherwise, God’s Name is desecrated.

But there’s more.

Since all people everywhere across the vast span of human history have been created in the image of God, how we treat each other and how we treat ourselves is incredibly important. To treat another human being for any reason, with a lack of respect and dignity, is to treat God with dishonor. When we show kindness and compassion to someone, it is as if we were doing so to God. To show cruelty, dishonor, and disrespect to another…

…well, you get the idea.

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” –Matthew 25:41-46 (ESV)

This reminds me of a song I heard Alanis Morissette sing on the radio, though I guess it was originally released by Joan Osborne:

What if god was one of us,
just a slob like one of us,
just a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home?

-Lyrics by Eric Bazilian

If we would just try to imagine that everyone we encounter, no matter who they are, is God. How would that affect how we respond to them? How would we treat them differently? How would we see them? How would we feel about how we treated them yesterday?

But if God is holy, and being created in the image of God, other people are holy, what about you…and me? That is, how are you treating yourself? How am I treating myself?

Lakanta (played by Tom Jackson): What do you think is sacred to us here?

Wesley Crusher (played by Wil Wheaton): Maybe the necklace you’re wearing? The designs on the walls?

Lakanta: Everything is sacred to us – the buildings, the food, the sky, the dirt beneath your feet – and you. Whether you believe in your spirit or not, we believe in it. You are a sacred person here, Wesley.

Wesley Crusher: I think that’s the first time anyone’s used that particular word to describe me.

Lakanta: You must treat yourself with respect. To do otherwise is to desecrate something that is holy.

Wesley Crusher: Is that what you think I’ve been doing?

Lakanta: Only you can decide that.

Wesley Crusher: I guess I haven’t had a lot of respect for myself lately.

from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode,
Journey’s End (1994)

I always feel a little embarrassed when I include a quote from a television show or movie in these “meditations” but this transaction between Wesley and Lakanta absolutely crystallizes the point I’m trying to make. Remember, I previously said that there’s a connection between loving God and loving other people with loving yourself. Now we see that perhaps we can’t obey God at all; we cannot love Him and treat His Name as sacred, until we learn that to treat ourselves with disrespect is to desecrate someone who is holy…that is you…and me.

I know, it’s pretty hard to wake up first thing in the morning, look at that tired, unshaven face in the mirror, and think of myself as holy. On the other hand, what do we see when we look at the faces of other people? If we can’t see what is holy in them, how will we ever see what is Holy in God?

When we seek to serve God, when we do our best to help others, to treat them kindly, with respect, with dignity, we aren’t just doing it for them, though of course they benefit. We aren’t just doing it for ourselves either, for that would be ultimately self-serving. But in honoring others, we are serving a purpose that transcends our human existence and connects us with holy realms and an infinite God. The very act of spending half an hour with a sick friend at the hospital or even donating one can of beans to your local food bank inescapably connects you with the Divine purpose; the very heart of the One and True God. It’s not just morality, it’s spirituality. It’s not just right and wrong. It’s living holiness.

It’s so easy to think of ourselves as “ordinary.” It’s so easy to get swept away by the habits of our small lives. To go to work. To shop for food. To mow the lawn, To take out the garbage. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re not here to be ordinary people doing ordinary things. God created us to do great and wonderful things. It’s all at our fingertips. All we have to do is look in the mirror and see a sacred person. All we have to do is look at somebody else, and see someone who is holy.

God is One and we were created in His image. So it is as if God were one of us. It’s as if God is all of us, not as imagined in some mystic, eastern philosophical way, but because we are all of His image, His essence.

You are holy. So am I. So is the next person you see or speak to, no matter who they are.

As a person behaves here below, so he is treated above.

Perhaps someone once tried to tell you about the ugly deeds of another. Perhaps you responded, “I’m not interested.” And you didn’t listen.

Then there will be a time when a heavenly being will wish to report on your doings here on earth. If you have had the guts to respond this way, G‑d will also say, “I’m not interested. I don’t want to even listen.”

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“How to Not Listen”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

What if God was one of us?

Oh, one more thing. All this is far easier said than done, especially finding that “holy” guy in the mirror while I’m shaving in the morning.

The Sign on the Bus

“You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.”

Leviticus 19:32 (ESV)

The Torah (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 244:1) tells us to rise before old people aged seventy or older, even if they are not Torah-scholars, out of respect “for the trials and tribulations they have undergone” ( Talmud Kiddushin 33a)

-quoted from sichosinenglish.org

On the bus you will find a sign saying, “Mipnei Sevah Takum” … The sign on the bus confronts the bus rider with the command, “Stand up for the elderly!”

-by Lawrence Grossman
“Jewish Ethics, from Ancient Bible to Modern Bus”
Jewish Ideas Daily

My wife read to me from one of the email newsletters she gets periodically, probably from Chabad, about the signs you see on Israeli buses to “stand for the elderly.” The signs are used to indicate certain seats that are set aside for older people or anyone else who would have trouble with mobility or standing for long periods of time. The irony, as pointed out in Grossman’s article, is the “collision” between the holy and the secular. Even though the majority of Israel’s Jewish population isn’t religious, the Torah and the intent of God cannot be so easily removed from being Jewish.

In quoting Leviticus 19:32, my wife made the same sort of remark as Grossman did in his news story. Then she said an interesting thing. She said that, for a Jew, it is impossible to separate loving and obeying God with being good to other human beings. She quoted from a teaching of the Baal Shem Tov (which I don’t have immediately available to me) to support this point.

I agreed with her and remarked that I often say the same thing, however I declined to mention that my source is from a different teacher:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” –Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

As far as I can tell, Jesus is saying the same thing: Loving God means loving human beings. You can’t separate the two. If you say you love God and you hate people, something is wrong with your love for God.

But it’s not easy to love other people, at least not all other people. After all, who gets along with everyone all of the time? I don’t. And yet Paul added some commentary (midrash on Torah, perhaps) that speaks to this very issue.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. –Romans 12:17-18 (ESV)

Oh snap! Really?

Going to verses 20 and 21, Paul adds, “…if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. It almost sounds like Paul is connecting his message to the Romans back to what the Master said in Matthew 25:31-46. If so, then giving food and drink to our “enemies” and not just our friends, is the same as feeding a hungry and thirsty Jesus. Does that mean we will be rewarded for serving our enemies as if we were serving Christ?

That’s a startling thought.

So doing good to others, even if you don’t want to, and even if they’re your “enemy” (in this context, it means a person you don’t like, not someone who is trying to kill you in war) is a very Christian value. And yet we see it is also very Jewish.

But more importantly, it just isn’t Christians being good to Christians and Jews being good to Jews:

“They said of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai that no man ever greeted him first, even idol worshippers in the market” [i.e., Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai was the first to greet every person, even idol worshippers] (Berachot 17). At the same location the sage Abaye advocated soft speech and words of peace to everyone, especially including idol worshippers.

“[it is proper to] support the idol worshippers during the sabbatical year… and to inquire after their welfare [commentators: even on the days of the holidays of their idols, even if they do not keep the seven Noahide commandments] because of the ways of peace.” (Shevi’it 4,3)

The rabbis taught: ‘We support poor Gentiles with the poor people of Israel, and we visit sick Gentiles as well as the sick of Israel and we bury the dead of the Gentiles as well as the dead of Israel, because of the ways of peace.” (Gitin 61a)

I “borrowed” those quotes from an older blog post of mine called What the Talmud Says About Gentiles, Revisited as a reminder of who is the root and who is the branch.

Lately, I’ve been writing about why loving isn’t easy and why we should love even a person who leaves the faith and becomes an atheist. Quite the opposite of what you’d expect, religious people have the toughest time loving each other and especially loving people who are different in their religious orientation than they are. In spite of the supposed similarities between Christians and Jews (Judaism being the foundation of Christianity), we have a very hard time being civil with each other on certain occasions.

The conversation going on right now at Gene Shlomovich’s blog Daily Minyan is one minor example. Actually, the transactions are pretty civil for the most part, especially when I recall the verbal “blood bathes” I’ve witnessed in the past. However, even between Gentiles and Jews who are all disciples of the Jewish Messiah, we have a long way to go.

And yet God tells us that if we love Him, we must love other people, even if we don’t always like them. The next time you are tempted to think of yourself as especially holy and righteous, recall the last time when you had thoughts and feelings of disrespect and hostility for your fellow human being.

Maybe we can rescue some feelings of humility from this experience.