Posted by: jdiscover | July 23, 2010

God is One

This past week we observed the fast day of Tisha Ba’Av the day when we commemorate the destruction of the ancient Temples in Jerusalem. According to the Talmud the ruin of the Second Temple by the Romans in the year 70 CE and the exile that ensued afterwards came about because of sinat chinam – causeless hatred, amongst the Jews. This observation is confirmed by the historical record that tells of brutal infighting and destructive behavior between Jewish groups in Jerusalem that contributed in a significant way to the fall of Jerusalem.

Causeless hatred – sinat chinam within the Jewish community is a malady that has cursed us in every age. Every generation of Jews has had its factions and divisions. Different viewpoints and forms of Jewish expression have been a source of creativity and growth but all too often these rifts have weakened us as a community. In our own day the schisms between the Jewish movements have deepened, undermining our ability to function as a single peoplehood. The tensions between Jewish expressions was very evident in the past weeks as the Knesset and the leadership of the Jewish world debated, hotly at times, legislation (The Rotem Bill) that would have vested sole authority over conversion to Judaism to the Ultra-Orthodox Israeli Chief Rabbinate. Fortunately, this crisis was adverted, for now, by the withdrawal of the legislation earlier this week.       

This pause in internal Jewish conflict is a good time to reflect on what the Talmudic rabbis meant by sinat chinam – causeless hatred. The pages of the Talmud are filled with disagreement; our ancestors did not expect us to always agree. So when do our conflicting viewpoints become causeless hatred?

The answer I believe is found in this week’s Torah reading VaEtchanan. In VaEtchanan we are introduced to the eternal watchwords of our tradition. Shma Yisrael Adonai Elocheinu Adonai Echad – Hear O Israel: Adonai our God, Adonai (is) One! Note the text reads “our God” not “your God” or “my God.” As long as we recognize that Adonai is the God of all, that no group, opinion or perspective has exclusive rights to God, we can disagree all we want. When any group argues that they exclusively have God on their side or that they know God’s will they violate the most central of all Jewish teachings. Causeless hatred is the direct result of such arrogance.

God belongs to us all. The Lord is our God. There are many paths to reach toward our God; none should ever be thought of as exclusive. Our differences are many but Our God is One!

Shabbat shalom, Rabbi David Rose


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