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Love each other

We are different.
[additional-authors]
August 6, 2015
We are different.
 
We don’t dress the same (although we both wear kippot around town and tallitot when we pray). Our accents are different (in 60 seconds you’ll be able to guess who is from Brooklyn and who, from Omaha). More significantly, we don’t understand Judaism or interpret Torah in precisely the same way.
 
But this is how it has always been. Rabbis bring their unique world-views and experiences to the Torah they teach. One of us grew up in Crown Heights, raised by parents who were ba’alei Teshuva, just blocks away from the home of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The other grew up in Nebraska, in a Reform-Zionist household.
 
We are, indeed, different.
 
But we are the same, too. We share a yiddishe neshama (a Jewish soul). We share a love for Judaism and a desire to bring that passion for our tradition to our People.
 
We share the belief that we are stronger together, as Rabbis and as Jews. We share a desire to build bridges and make connections across denominational and institutional boundaries.
 
We share a deep respect for one another and for the Torah that we each try to communicate to those whom we serve. We’ve broken bread together and made a l’chaim (or two) together as well.
 
We share a deep concern over the divisions that plague our community at this moment. Whether it’s how we relate to Israel, what we think of the “Iran Deal,” or how we believe Judaism should be observed, it feels like we are divided as never before. Please know this: we rabbis are united in our belief that these divisions are terrible for the Jewish community we love so much.
 
Divisions exist between us, make no mistake about it. But this is critical: we respect and love each other nonetheless. Our tradition teaches us that מחלוקות לשם שמיים (machlokot l’shem shamayim – “disputes for the sake of Heaven”) are a good thing when they are focused on discovering the truth and when we conduct them with כבוד (kavod – respect) for one another.
 
According to our tradition, when God took our ancestors out of Egypt, God took all of them out, even those of our People who still practiced עבודה זרה (avodah zara – idol worship). What’s the lesson? If God could love and accept those among our ancestors who committed what, in God’s eyes as it were, was surely among the gravest of sins, how much more so should we be able to remain friends, family even, despite all that divides us. So this Jew is a Democrat and this Jew is a Republican? Nu? This one thinks the Iran deal is good for us and this one does not? So nu?!? This one goes to Chabad and this one to a Reform synagogue? Nu?!?! We still can respect each other. We still can love one another.
 
When we commit ourselves to the value of אהבת ישראל (ahavat Yisrael – loving the Jewish People and Israel), we will find ways to live in and grow from and embrace what makes us different.
 
In the wake of the events of the past week, we raise our voices together and cry out: God forbid that a Jew would ever raise a knife in his hand to strike a fellow Jew (or any other person if not in self-defense)! God forbid that a Jew would ever firebomb a home and endanger or injure or חס ושלום (chas v’shalom – God forbid) kill an innocent person.
 
We are not really different. We are one people, one neshama – and we must love each other.
 
Rabbi Mentz is the Rabbi of Chabad of Bel Air. Rabbi Zweiback is the Senior Rabbi of Stephen Wise Temple.
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