web analytics
September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



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 is principal of the Bess and Paul Sigel Hebrew Academy of Greater Hartford. Any comments can be e-mailed to him at Ravmordechai@aol.com.


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.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
EyalGiladNaftali
BREAKING: Kidnappers/Killers of Naftali, Eyal and Gilad Killed in Shootout
Latest Indepth Stories
George Bush and Barack Obama

The big service ISIS is doing the West right now is checking Iranian power, just as the Sunni rebels inside Syria are keeping the Iranian agent Hezbollah in check, and just as the PLO is keeping Hamas in check, at least to some degree.

Cannabis Greenhouse

Research shows that high doses of marijuana can produce acute psychotic reactions, lower IQ in teens

donny pic

The current missionary problem in Samaria is still relatively unknown throughout Israel&to most Jews

Jewish Holidays' Guide for the Perplexed

Rosh Hashanah is a universal, stock-taking, renewal and hopeful holiday,

No mutual clash between parties, it was Jews repeatedly attacked by Arabs, not the other way around.

Israel would love to be in the coalition,but it’s never going to happen, because, in the end, most of America’s allies would walk away if Israel were on board officially.

Why has his death been treated by some as an invitation for an emotional “autopsy”?

SWOT analysis: Assessing resources, internal Strengths&Weaknesses; external Opportunities&Threats.

Strategy? For the longest time Obama couldn’t be bothered to have one against a sworn enemy.

Seventeen visual skills are needed for success in school, sports, and everyday life.

We started The Jewish Press. Arnie was an integral part of the paper.

Fear alone is substantial; without fusing it to beauty, fear doesn’t reach its highest potential.

Fortunate are we to have Rosh Hashanah for repentance, a shofar to awaken heavenly mercy.

Arab leaders who want the US to stop Islamic State are afraid of being dubbed traitors and US agents

National Lawyers Guild:Sworn enemy of Israel & the legal arm of Palestinian terrorism since the ’70s

More Articles from Rabbi Mordechai Weiss

When the Jewish people crossed the Red Sea, successfully escaping the clutches of the Egyptians, Moses gathered the Israelites together and they sang the famous “Az Yashir.” Miriam, Moses’s sister, also assembled the women as they danced with tambourines and sang “shiru lahashem ki gao gaa sus vrochbo rama bayam” – let us sing to Hashem for he is great, horse and chariot he drowned in the sea.”

I have always been disturbed by the fact that while millions upon millions of dollars are poured into the construction and programs of synagogues, the support received by our yeshivas and day schools is so meager in comparison.

As an educator, I was always intrigued with the trip on which my high school students would embark in their junior or senior year. The “March of the Living” allows a student to experience in a small way the immense tragedy our people endured during the Holocaust.

The first reference to Mount Sinai in the Torah occurs when our teacher Moses witnessed a strange phenomenon there. As he was shepherding his sheep he glanced up at the mountain and saw a thorn bush that was burning without being consumed by the fire.

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.

Herzl was dead within a year, but his prophetic vision established him as the Father of modern Zionism.

Though the worship of God and our underlying relationship with Him are implicit in this text, the stress is on our relationship with people.

When I study of the experiences of King David or the challenges of our gedolim when they were young, I gain more respect and admiration for them.

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: