Some words get overused, misused and abused. The words become degraded so that they no longer can be taken at face value. I’ve begun receiving notices for upcoming lectures/shiurim that are “major.” Does that imply that all “non-major” lectures, shiurim/programs are “minor?” When hyping events as “major,” the result is to downgrade all other “non-major” events…and ultimately to downgrade “major” itself.
Demonization of any one group threatens the moral fabric of the entire society. Unless society as a whole can address the plague of dehumanization and demonization, all of us—of whatever background—are at risk. Each of us, in our own way, can contribute to creating a more harmonious, tolerant, humane society.
In our time, like throughout history, there are those who seek to manipulate crowds in dangerous, murderous and hateful ways. There are those who play on the fears and gullibility of the masses. But there are also those who resist the crowd instinct and maintain the personality instinct. These are the stars who will form a new kind of crowd, a crowd that will bring human beings together in harmony and mutual respect.
We certainly should draw on the wisdom and scholarship of others, and we should give them due credit when we learn from them and quote their words. But we should not shut off our own brains, nor feel unable to express an opinion without basing it on an earlier source. A thinking Judaism makes us better Jews…and better human beings.
The Jerusalem Post (9/23/20) reported that "the Jewish Agency has launched a unique global project that will allow Jews from across the world to send in notes that will be inserted in the Western Wall's ancient stones ahead of Yom Kippur." This is another example of treating religion as a sort of superstition. You can pray to God directly. You don't need to mail a note to a wall.
The reality is that we have an Orthodox community deeply committed to its standards of halakha; and we have a large community of people who think of themselves as being Jewish, although they have not met the criteria of halakha even according to the most lenient halakhic opinions.
A rabbi who introduces stringencies does not thereby gain the title of being “frum.” To declare something forbidden is far easier than to declare something permissible. A really frum rabbi (or lay person) is most often characterized by a spirit of compassion, intellectual openness, and a desire to expand, rather than contract, legitimate religious observance.
It’s important for all of us—not just synagogue rabbis and leaders—to work to maintain a sense of community. It may not be so simple these days to sit down together for a cup of coffee, but it isn’t so complicated to make a phone call, send an email, share a joke…to let others know that we care, that they matter to us.
There are, unfortunately, people of various religions and races who are indeed racists and/or anti-Semites. They are a threat to society, and a threat to themselves.However, there are people who are branded as racists or anti-Semites, but who are incorrectly stigmatized with these terms. One must think very carefully before labeling someone as a racist/anti-Semite.