Monday, July 8, 2013

They hate us

They hate us.

We know they hate us. You can tell they hate us by the things they say and do, by the way they write about us. They hate us because we threaten their way of life. And their way of life is wrong, misguided, a corruption of Jewish values. And they see us, the way we live life differently, the way Jewish people are meant to live. They see us and they know there is a better way to live. But instead of examining themselves, they attack us. It's because of people like them that the Beit Hamikdash hasn't been rebuilt. Their hate holds back the Geulah.

* * *

Who are "they?" It depends who "we" are.

I call that the Big Lie of Sinat Chinam. It pops up in secular editorials, in Haredi magazines and in Modern Orthodox blogs. There is so much hate, but we never say we hate them. We don't hate them. They hate us. And because they hate us, we have license to analyze, criticize and attack.

We have reason to despair, because they will never change. They will always hate us. Maybe if they understood us, they wouldn't hate us. But they don't want to understand us, because then they would have to give up hating us. So they just hate us, and the world remains unperfected.

That's the Big Lie.

* * *

Of course, it might actually be true. Someone might actually hate someone else, or a whole group of people. But I call it a lie because it's a distraction. It keeps us from the work we actually need to do. It lets us blame someone else, and it gives us an excuse to hate. I hate her, but it's only because she hated me first. I'm the victim here.

I've been noticing other people telling the lie for several years now. But I heard myself say it for the first time last week.

I was at Shabbat lunch, speaking with my friend N and her mother-in-law.

"I've stopped buying the Haredi magazines," I told N.

"Oh? Is that part of your religious transformation?" she asked. (Which, more on that another time, possibly).

"It's related to it," I said.

Then I realized that we were speaking in the annoying insider shorthand that friends sometimes do, so I explained to her American mother-in-law what we were talking about.

I explained how these magazines have so many features that I like, but that I've decided to stop buying them because--and now I could hear my voice growing sad, long-suffering and self-righteous:

"I just can't keep spending money every week to support people that invalidate and delegitimize my way of life," I said.

They hate us, you see. So I don't need to admit I don't want to keep engaging with political and religious viewpoints so different than my own. Which is fine, right? There are lots of other things to read. But that's my decision. It's not really because "they hate us," but it's an easy way of explaining my own choice that blames someone else.

* * *

So how do we opt out of "they hate us?" There has to be a better way to spend the week before Tisha B'Av than hand-wringing about how victimized we are by other Jews' cruelty and stupidity, and how very very far away the Redemption must be.

* * *

There's a Simpsons episode (there's always a Simpsons episode) where Homer goes to boot camp. The sergeant is doing a typical new-recruit abuse routine, and he has this exchange with Homer:

Drill Sergeant: Look soldier, you don't like me, and I don't like you.
Homer: I like you.
Drill Sergeant: Well, uh, alright . . .You like me, but I don't like you!
Homer: Maybe you'd like me if you got to know me?

It's hard to argue with that. We can't hate each other if I refuse to participate. You might hate me, but you probably wouldn't if you got to know me.

* * *

Despairing about the sad, fractured state of the Jewish people isn't rational. It doesn't serve any productive purpose to accuse anyone else of holding back Geulah; it just perpetuates a cycle of finger-pointing and enmity. We don't actually know how much or how little the world has to change to elicit Divine Mercy. Maybe we just need to show we are trying a bit. I can't make the Haredim try, and I can't make the secular Jews try, and I can't make the liberal religious movements try. I can't make the Modern Orthodox left try, and I can't make the Modern Orthodox right try. I can't make the radical feminists try, and I can't make their opponents try. I can't make strangers try and I can't make my neighbors try, but I can try.

I can try. I hate you. For so many reasons. For no reason at all, most days. But I'm working on it. Let's talk.


YLH said...

The word Zion can be translated as point (The Point)- thank u for making such an important point (to me also a constant reminder of the work I have to do all the time)

Jenna said...

Love the honesty and uncomfortable truths in this. Thanks for naming what we don't like to name.

Pamela said...

Perhaps if you wrote for these magazines and publications the one's you refer to would get to know you. This could at least help to spread some light.

benony mouse said...

A Rav told me that (and Im paraphrasing) in Shamayim they don't care who started it. Each person is judged on whether or not they acted correctly. Essentially I don't need to waste my time on who's right or wrong; my job is to promote ahavas yisroel. Boy is it tough! I can't justify my bad behavior anymore!
Thanks for the brutal honesty!

thejewishpoetess said...

I hear your point, completely. I just have this to say - feelings are not facts. I have not yet heard of a group of wild "fringe" Conservative or secular Jews beating up Jewish women because they won't move to the rear of the bus. I have not heard of any news stories of rabid Reform Jews hurling chairs and rocks at women who want to pray. Every day, Jewish tour groups comprised of Reform, Conservative, etc. adults and youth travel to Mea Shearim, visit Orthodox religious moshavs, etc, and they learn, and they show respect. Name me the Orthodox tour who visits the non-religious kibbutz or non-Orthodox synagogue to learn what they believe? It's not a two-way street. Feeling victimized is not the same as actually being a victim - and trying to paint over it with one big brush is an injustice, however inadvertent, to those who really have been brutalized.

Chaya said...

That sounds right, Jewishpoetess. It's not my intention to equate or assess competing claims of victimhood. The question that interests me is this: what is my part? Where do I have power? Where am I holding on to hate, and what can I do about it?

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