People throw around the term “Jewish unity” all the time, but what does it mean and how do we achieve that important goal? Do we have to agree with everyone? Must we compromise our values and ideology to make room for our brothers and sisters? Should we cast aside all that is important to us in the name of unity? I have a two-letter answer to all those questions: N-O!
Unity is about one thing and one thing only, and it’s called respect. Nobody is asking you to change the style of your davening or way of dress. You can – and should – keep your minhagim and traditions that have been part of your life since the day you were born. Differences of opinions are healthy for society and should be encouraged. The only thing every Jew needs to do is respect these differences and understand that we can disagree and still be on the same team.
The major problem, of course, comes with people who willingly and knowingly violate halachah. What is our position regarding them? On one hand, they are as Jewish as you and me, and we would rush them to the hospital on Shabbos if an urgent situation arises. Yet, by publicly eating bread on Pesach and driving their car on the day they call “Saturday,” the entire Jewish world suffers. Do we need to respect them, as well, or hate them as evil sinners?
From all that I’ve studied, I believe the answer comes down to one key issue: Are they violating the Torah out of ignorance or is it a rebellion against Hashem? In 98 percent of the cases, the answer is simply ignorance. They have been misled, brain-washed, and poorly educated. They think they know what they’re doing – but in reality, they have no idea. They are immature and have been swept up by the passions and temptations of the modern “fun” world. The fact that, in Israel, these people give their sons a bris milah, attend a Pesach seder, affix mezuzos to their homes, and fast on Yom Kippur proves that they are not anti-Hashem. Most of these people will bury their loved ones according to halachah and will sit (some form of) shiv’ah, as well. Therefore, even though most of their lives are far from Torah, we must respect them by embracing, befriending, and doing our best to educate each and every one of them.
What about our non-observant brothers and sisters outside Eretz Yisrael? The overwhelming majority of these people do not fast on Yom Kippur, have no idea what a mezuzah is, and cremate their loved ones; do we need to respect them as well? Once again, the issue comes down to ignorance vs. rebellion, which gives us the same answer as above. Our Jewish brethren lack the knowledge they need to make the right decisions, so if we don’t teach them, who will? MSNBC? The New York Times? The radical liberal movement currently sweeping the world with their Pride nonsense?
There’s just one important factor I have not yet stated, which is crucial to a united Jewish world. While we must respect any Jew, anywhere in the world, who acts differently from us – as long as it’s not part of a war against Hashem – respect is a two-way street. Yes, I will respect you; but I demand you respect me, as well.
Just as I won’t coerce anyone into my way of thinking and will respect our differences, I expect the same in return. If I refuse to walk into a store that displays the Pride flag or colors, you need to respect me on that. If you want to vote for Yair Lapid in Israel or Joe Biden in America – I respect that! – but do you respect my decision to vote for Bibi and Trump, as well? If you want to wear a black hat, white shirt, and jacket to shul – go right ahead; but don’t look at me weird when I show up to daven in a T-shirt, jeans, and my green knitted kipah.
Yes, Jews – of all colors, shapes, and sizes – need to get along. Sefardi with Ashkenazi, chasidim with Zionists, and right-wingers with leftists. The way to do it is by respecting one another. Am Yisrael is made up of 12 Tribes and I am certain that “Naftali” did things differently from “Zevulun” – but they fought side-by-side and respected one another at all times.
I have many friends from all walks of life: from super-frum to tattoo-wearing secularists. I have friends in Israel who voted “Ben-Gvir” and some who voted “Meretz” and I get along with all of them because they understand my two rules: A war against Hashem is a war against me, and while I respect your opinion, you must also respect mine. Let’s implement those rules and bring our people together.
Am Yisrael Chai!