Are We One People?
There's a five-minute video from Shabbat.com making the rounds on social media. I've seen it a number of times on Facebook and on WhatsApp. It features an older, religious Jewish man and a taller, younger man in a baseball cap with a scruffy beard and prominent ear buds. They are waiting at a bus stop in what looks like the middle of Nowhere, Israel.
The dialogue is in Hebrew, but the video carries English subtitles.
The older man, Yosef, offers the younger man a bite of food, calling him “achi” which means my brother. The younger man, who we eventually learn is named Amir, responds harshly, arguing that they are not brothers. He makes the claim that religious Jews look down on him because he eats crab and cheeseburgers and has a few tattoos. He calls Yosef “a religious black hat fanatic” and asserts that he himself is nothing like that.
Gently, Yosef points out all that they have in common and, by the end of the video, Amir has a change of heart.
In some ways, this video is very Israeli. The hostility and mutual distrust among groups of Jews in Israel are real. At the same time, I have never felt the potency of Jewish peoplehood as much in all the decades I lived in America as I do living in Israel.
The period after Passover is stuffed with special days, marking events in relatively recent history that celebrate what makes us a people. Yom HaShoah honors the memory of the Holocaust. Yom HaZikaron honors the memory of fallen Israeli soldiers and terror victims. Yom HaAtzmaut honors the establishment of the modern State of Israel just 70 years ago. And Yom Yerushalayim next month commemorates the reunification of Jerusalem after the Six Day War in 1967.
These are new holidays, added on to the calendar of Biblical and post-Biblical holidays we already share. With so much in common, it’s sad to note that Amir doesn’t see Yosef as part of his extended Jewish family, because he feels judged by religious Jews.
We err in judging one another all the time. By this I mean two different things. One, we err by the fact that we judge one another at all. To disagree is totally fine. To dismiss another Jew as not being part of the family because we make different choices is an error.
The other error we make in judging others is thinking we know all about them by assessing how they’re dressed. It’s incredibly common in Israel to see, for example, a young woman on a bus, wearing a shirt with cap sleeves and shorts or tight pants, with multiple piercings in her ears and a circular barbell nose piercing, pulling out a Tehillim, a Book of Psalms, to recite during the bus ride.
Just yesterday, we were eating at a fast food restaurant. I saw with my own eyes how the delivery guy, a tall young man with two matching earrings and no kippa, reached up and kissed the mezuzah as he exited the restaurant on his way to deliver dinner to a local family.
From the other direction, by all appearances, I'm a religious woman, committed to Jewish law and Jewish practice. At the same time, I am very much a part of society at large, and I cultivate relationships with people who neither dress, think, believe nor behave as I do. It would be a mistake to dismiss me because my head is covered and I am wearing a long skirt.
The only way to know what a person is really all about is to set aside our preconceived notions and to actually get to know them as individuals. The more we do that, the more we find commonalities.
Which helps us understand and that, although we all fly with different colored feathers, God created the Jews as one people.
It's a worthy vision to work on seeing more clearly.
What can I do if I regret getting a tattoo? See answers from Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis here.
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