I have met many a cynic, some of whom number among my closest friends and colleagues, who have long since despaired of “mutual responsibility.” Their perspective of reality is that the most paramount of social values, mutual responsibility and sharing, has plummeted to the bottom rung on the hierarchy of values that exists in human society. They maintain that this value is fragile, fleeting, and basically impossible in its concrete sense, given the schisms and rifts rending the fabric of human society, and which are now the motivating factors fueling infinite human passion. This passion blinds the selfish individual, to a large degree, from the force of opposing others. It’s about him and only him; only his path is the correct one, while the paths and choices of others are insignificant, deficient, undesirable.
As I see it, reality is the diametric opposite of this myopic view, positive, optimistic and filled with hope. A swift but loving glance at all that is transpiring in the heart of Israeli society and culture, revealing many prismatic societal facets sprinkled across it, elevating it and learning to discover and appreciate one another. They are breaking out in a spectacular dance of respect and brotherhood, mutual admiration and constant learning, and above all, boundless giving.
I can easily enumerate dozens of partnerships among assorted parties, associations and organizations that collaborate, facilitate and support one other, crossing all sectoral and societal boundaries. At Gesher, for example, direct acquaintanceships and relationships are built every day among people from diverse sectors. Recurring and unremitting differences of opinion are being infused with genuine, real love that shouts louder than the inflamed words of argument.
This is most conspicuous in the arena where all fences and walls sink into the earth, the space where all share the same language – the place of illness and pain. Suffering has a way of evolving into unlimited empathy and compassion.
Boundaries blur behind the vale of tears, as angels in white and angels of mercy dance in synchrony. Solidarity and brotherhood radiate from the community sector where organizations and nonprofits avail their services indiscriminately to all, in a magnificent spectrum of identities and one inclusive beating heart.
Unfortunately, the media refuse to sit back and remain silent. They sound a mighty battle cry and with colorful, flashing screens and clamor, they dull and darken the stirring visions and delicate voices, constructing a Great Divide. They cultivate within us feelings of vacancy and negativity which guarantee their own continued existence.
The media’s assorted channels require dividers and barriers as we need oxygen.
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Yet it is those same barriers that destroy us.
If there is one genuine concern, one fundamental fear that we must overcome, it is the deep-seated schisms between various segments of society, both social and economic.
This is not a decree of fate. It does not, under any circumstances, reflect existing polarization, and is simply the unfortunate result of policies that lack awareness, direction and compassion.
We live in a historic era of new opportunities. Politically and socially, this is an era of unparalleled opportunity and innovation.
The society into which I was born, live and exist happily, and in which I choose to educate my students, is the expanding haredi community.
This sector possesses the strength and capacity to contribute distinct, vital and invaluable treasures of spirit and matter, to the society of vision and constructive deeds of the Jewish nation in this inspiring age.
Each sector can fine-tune, enhance and cast its own identity through consideration of the surrounding society, without damaging itself. The circle of identities will expand, enrich and deepen, and more eager hands will join together in the dance of splendid brotherhood.
Without arrogance and with sincere desire to increase the honor of Heaven, we must respect and listen, and know that complex realities and challenges of generations will not be solved in isolation, by dismissing others. We must understand that we need each other. The mature individual prefers the blended, complex and rich over superficial uniformity and simplicity.
At times, people are stranded in the desert of stereotype and bias, where fear of others becomes a monster so scary that it murders any ability to draw near, to build relationships.
The most effective tool of all to strengthen the paramount Jewish value of ahavat hinam, love for no reason other than loving, is to simply get out.
To exit our tightly closed circle during these days of the Jewish calendar, and embark upon a journey of awareness and acquaintanceship. Get to know somebody new. Touch someone else’s world. Seek out a new relationship and new meeting point.
This can be a fortifying and empowering experience that draws hearts closer together.
Every person should search for a new friend. Every man should seek out one “other.”
Let the people meet! Perfection is reserved for God alone; human truth is forever partial. Yet one part and another part can join hands and unite in a dance of completion – and completion is where God dwells.
If, in the past, we defined ourselves as a lone sheep amidst 70 wolves, then today, when the wolves have multiplied and proliferated, the guarantee to our security and strength is unity, increasing love among ourselves and among mankind. For every man was formed in the image of God.
Rabbi Menachem Bombach is the director of Hassidic Midrasha and part of the Haredi Steering Committee at Gesher.
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