‘They should be ashamed,” a friend wrote me recently.
He was referring to the resistance of some Orthodox Jews to joining the Israel Defense Forces. His communication joined the lists of emails and conversations I have had recently with many a friend on the rising tension between the so-called “Orthodox” and “secular” Jews in Israel. This tension, which has always existed, seems to have escalated most recently, particularly in Israel’s political arena.
These developments have also spilled over into the way American Jews of different denominations interact with each other. When Jews clash with Jews, it hurts. As history demonstrates, such conflicts almost always lead to havoc and destruction. So how should we respond? What can we do?
My dear mentor, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, once imparted to me that the difference between a wise man and a fool is that a wise man “makes the important issues of life important and the trivial issues trivial,” yet the fool “makes the important issues trivial, and the trivial issues important.”
His poignant advice summarizes best the approach we should adopt today: We must maintain a sense of proportion between the truly important issues and the trivial ones. After all, that which unites us is so much greater than that which divides us.
We all desire to make the world a better place. We all endeavor to nurture our children and surroundings with the richness of our heritage and traditions. We all care deeply about our communities, and we all wish to harness their dynamic force. But we can do so only if we learn to decipher the important issues from the trivial ones. And we ought to come together, as members of the same family, and focus on our common contributions, values and goals.
This will build bridges, not walls; love, not apathy; harmony, not dissonance. An acceptable solution for all internal conflicts will then undoubtedly arise.
Pinchas Allouche is the rabbi of Congregation Beth Tefillah, in Scottsdale, Ariz.