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Can we all just get along?

Thursday, 23 May, 2019 - 11:14 am

“People, I just want to say, you know, can we all just get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids? … It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll, we’ll get our justice … Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out.” - Rodney King May 1, 1992

The LA riots took place when I was a young and impressionable child. When my siblings and I would squabble, my father would say "can we all just get along".

Today Thursday, May 23, 2019, is the relatively unknown Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer. On this day we celebrate two events that took place approx. 200 C.E. The first being a plague that wiped out close to 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva, a Talmudic sage, and the second was the passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, student of Rabbi Akiva and a master kabbalist, the author of the Zohar. 

I am going to focus on the first one. Rabbi Akiva taught: "You shall love your fellow as yourself; this is a great principle in Torah." Despite this being one of his main teachings, 23,995 of his students passed away because they did not show respect for one another. It was not, G-d forbid, that they did not love each other, but because they cared so much for the others, they wanted to ensure that their friends were serving G-d the ‘right’ way. They were sure THEIR way was THE way to reach spirituality and connection with G-d, with Hashem. When their friends did not serve G-d in the way they understood to be the right way, they thought they went off the deep end instead of recognizing that serving G-d comes in different forms. Loving your fellow is not enough, we must also respect our differences even if we do not understand them.

We have certain immutable values, e.g. the Torah is true and everlasting. One should never give up on those values, however, we can treat someone who does not have those values with respect. 

The Lubavitcher Rebbe embodied this in his interactions with many Jewish leaders with whom he had differences of opinion with; the Rebbe would respectfully try to get them to see his viewpoint and at times said publicly, when trying to effect change, if using my name will help implement the needed change - great and if not, then do not use my name.

We see similar issues in the world around us today, from politics to religion. Families and communities are torn apart, not by some maniac (G-d protect us), but by thinking we know what is correct politicly, we know what Judaism really wants, we know how this community ought to be, etc. instead of allowing respectful, loving disagreement to occur.

As we move past Lag BaOmer, let us each resolve to love our fellow AND respect them! 

Have a great Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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