web analytics
March 3, 2015 / 12 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Diversity: The Uniqueness Of Our People


Diversity in Judaism is common in our history and liturgy. One can visit many synagogues and observe that the order of davening and the text of siddur vary from shul to shul. When I’m in Israel I often attend the services in a Sephardi shul where the prayers and the sequence of taking the Torah from the ark and replacing it are vastly different from what I’m accustomed to.

Perhaps this is the strength and uniqueness of our people. We recognize that we stem from as many as eighty nations and by definition are dissimilar – but while there are disparities in how we practice our Judaism, we have a common thread that binds us all together.

Unfortunately, though, there are Jews who insist that their particular way is the only way and that anyone who expresses Judaism differently is wrong – even a heretic or an apikoras. Such behavior is dangerous and in fact splinters our people, causing rifts, anger and frustration.

The very fact that the Haggadah we recite on Pesach speaks to four distinctive personalities is proof in itself that our sages realized that people are different and that they articulate their belief in God in many ways. One person is wise, one is wicked, one is simple and one can’t even ask any questions. These four types of Jews are indicative of the diversity of our people, yet all are included in the Passover experience, for all are considered Jews.

Similarly, when we take the etrog, lulav, hadassim and aravot in our hands to recite the bracha on the holiday of Sukkot, it is an action that many of our sages say symbolizes the unity of the Jewish people and the joining together of all types of Jews.

Some might be more observant as represented by the etrog, which has both beauty and fragrance. Some will be devoid of any ritual observance as represented by the aravah, which has no pleasant aroma and no innate splendor. Finally, some can be placed on the intermediate levels of observance as represented by the lulav and hadas, one of which possesses beauty, the other, fragrance. Yet we embrace all of them as both a symbol of harmony and the representation of the diversity of our people.

Jews today are quick to judge others and label them as frum or not frum, acceptable or unacceptable, kosher or treif. We merely observe their outer layer without understanding who they really are. We tend to quickly categorize them by how long they pray the Shmoneh Esrei, or whether they wear a black hat, or if they use paper plates on Shabbos or disposable tablecloths.

Based on these observations we reach conclusions – as absurd as it may sound – on whether they may marry our sons or daughters or whether they are genuinely religious and are truly following the laws of our Torah.

Don’t get me wrong: Everyone has the right to accept any chumra – stringency – so long as he applies it to himself and not insist that all others must follow. It becomes objectionable when these stringencies form the basis for judging others and when those who impose them assume an inflexible and rigid posture toward everyone else.

There is a reason the Talmud in numerous places declares “koach d’heterah adif” – the power of permitting something is preferable. Anyone can go ahead and impose or accept chumrahs – but should doing so be the basis for defining who is and who is not a Torah-observant Jew?

I seriously doubt these issues are important in Hashem’s evaluation of us. What is essential is whether we use our knowledge of Torah to include all our brothers and sisters in the collective experience of being Jewish; whether we judge others favorably; whether we look for the good in all people.

The most renowned sages of our people embraced all Jews regardless of their affiliation or their levels of observance because these tzaddikim understood that all Jews have something to contribute to our shared history and experience.

When did the ritual appearance of a Jew become the sole determinant of his piety? When did we assume that the outward appearance of an individual defines the depth of his religiosity? If that is our criterion, then I fear some of our greatest leaders would have been rejected by certain segments of our community.

About the Author: Rabbi Mordechai Weiss has been involved in Jewish education for the past forty-six years, serving as principal of various Hebrew day schools. He has received awards for his innovative programs and was chosen to receive the coveted Outstanding Principal award from the National Association of Private Schools. He now resides in Israel and is available for speaking engagements. Contact him at ravmordechai@aol.com or 914-368-5149.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Diversity: The Uniqueness Of Our People”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the US Congress in Washington on May 24 2011.
Live: Watch Netanyahu’s Speech in Congress [video]
Latest Indepth Stories
Red Line Obama

UN inspectors were flabbergasted when Iran allowed them full unfettered access to All nuclear sites

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressing Congress.

Obama’s real problem is that he knows Netanyahu has more credibility on the Iran issue than he does.

Silwan, in the eastern part of Jerusalem, founded by Yemenite Jews in 1881

Kristof’s op-ed “The Human Stain” was flawed and wrong; more than anti-Israel, it was anti-Semitic.

Hur and Aharon holding up Moshe's hands as Joshua battled Amalek.

“Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey after you left Egypt-how undeterred by fear of G-d”

Stalin’s plan for the Soviet’s “final solution of the Jewish question” was totally assimilating them

Many Jews oppose the speech fearing it will further erode relations between Israel & US. I disagree.

The University of Georgia Student Government Association called for more investment in Israel.

Without an alliance comparable to ISIS, Al Qaida & Iran, militant Islam will conquer the Middle East

Ultimately, Esther, Netanyahu, and we, the Jewish people, must and will rely on the true King, God, for our salvation from this genocidal threat.

Netanyahu addresses a clear, present & lethal threat to the US/Israel/WORLD; NOT political bickering

Buried in the tax-returns of the JCF is millions of dollars funneled to NIF in the last few years.

Bibi’s speech to Congress will bring respect and honor to the Jewish Nation from the US & the world

Obama & Putin have handwriting/signature clues indicating differences between public & private life

It’s time for a new Jewish policy regarding Ramallah, NOT just because of the yarmulke incident

“GETT’s” being screened for Israeli Rabbinical Court judges at their annual convention.

If Jackson were alive he’d denounce Democratic party’s silence towards virulent anti-Semitism

More Articles from Rabbi Mordechai Weiss

In the midst of all this name calling by these so called leaders stands a man who is steadfast in his beliefs and is prepared to deal with any outside pressure to get his point across.

“Well, you are also part of this class! If someone drills a hole in the boat, the boat will ultimately sink, and even the innocent ones will perish as well. The whole class must be punished!”

Teachers, as well as administrators, must be actively involved in the daily prayers that transpire at a school and must set the bar as dugmaot ishiot, role models, on how one must daven.

If the Maccabees found enough oil to last for one day, then why was the first day considered a miracle?

In our times, most of us when we pray, our minds are on something else-it is hard to focus all the time.

Two of these attacks occurred close to Allon Shvut, and somehow I feel responsible.

We recognize that we are only a speck in this great world and only a small impression in the unfolding of time. As an educator, I have always believed that teachers should realize this as well.

Schools should realize that a child’s life is composed of multifaceted experiences, and schoolwork and homework are only one small part of the equation.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/diversity-the-uniqueness-of-our-people/2006/12/13/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: