web analytics
July 30, 2015 / 14 Av, 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.

Who gives us the right to judge another Jew? Only God has the right to assess the goodness and the wholesomeness of an individual. Our job is to open our hearts to others and appreciate their good qualities.

Diversity very often can be the strength of our people. It charges each Jew to realize that despite our differences, we have so much more in common in recognizing that everyone plays an essential role in our great nation, our history, our destiny.

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
Dore Gold.
Foreign Ministry Calls Sunni Arab Nations ‘Israel’s Allies’
Latest Indepth Stories
Tobin-073115

Hillary should THANK Trump; By dominating the news he’s overshadowed the implosion of her campaign

Rabbi Yaakov Spivak

Hard to remember when Jewish youth were so hostile to their heritage as they are on campuses today.

Talks between Iran and the P5+1 were likely to be extended beyond Obama's self-imposed deadline.

Names of the enablers of Iran’s Nuclear weapons will be added next to Hitler’s on the list of infamy

By most accounts, the one person with the political muscle to swing enough Democratic votes to override a veto is Sen. Schumer.

The next day, in a speech in New York to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Kerry substantially upped the ante.

In Israel, the judiciary has established itself as superior to ALL other branches of the government.

The Fifteenth Day of the month of Av became a day of national rejoicing. The moment that had seemed hopeless became the moment of Redemption.

I think the melodies in our religious services have a haunting sound to them that just permeates your guts and gets into your soul. If you have any musical inclination, I think they inspire you to compose.

Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable, but Huckabee’s analogy was very appropriate.

Pollard was a Jewish-head-on-a-pike for all American Jews to see and to learn the explicit lesson.

If the Iran deal passes, Obama’s WH becomes world’s leading financier of terrorism against Americans

{Originally posted to the author’s website, FirstOne Through} Some passionate and eloquent liberals have bemoaned the state of inclusiveness among Jews today. Leon Wieseltier, editor of the New Republic penned an angry piece “J Street’s Rejection Is a Scandal” about the exclusion in 2014 of J Street from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. […]

Magnanimity by Moshe Dayan, allowing Muslim control of the Temple Mount, led to today’s situation.

It was modeled upon a similar fund that had been set up by Sephardic Jews in Venice. But Amsterdam’s Dotar was initially more ambitious in scope.

More Articles from Rabbi Mordechai Weiss

We tend to justify and idealize this division with pride attributing these tendencies as demonstrating a higher level of kedushah.

How is it possible that some of our people cannot see what I see, the miracle of the existence of the state of Israel?

A leader that has lost faith in his people cannot lead his people and conquer the land of Israel.

There was no question that when Mrs. Cohen entered the room to meet the teacher she was hostile from the outset.

He always impressed me with his brilliance and erudition. But it was his warm remarks and his sincere concern that made me want to please him.

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.

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: