Tolerating Tolerance

Tolerating Tolerance

7/18/99

Enough is enough, perhaps a great opening line, however, if I don’t get this message out today it will bother me even more.

It is now a few weeks into the landslide victory of Barak, a couple of months since the shootings at Columbine High School, and school is out and now children get to feel the summer air in camps and on family outings.

When is tolerance something we must avoid and when is it crucial to growth is a controversy in and of itself. I responded to Barak’s victory by saying that it is a waste of time speculating why. Politics is politics and it will be that way until the end of time. Perhaps it teaches the charedei to be more reliant on Hashem rather than a candidate. When Netanyahu was elected and we were told he would never give Chevron back, he did. Yet millions of dollars was raised to fly in hundreds if not thousands to vote for this next savior of the chareidei community. The same millions could and should have been spent on rabbeim and teachers struggling to make an honest living doing the work that is most urgent to our children. So now we have Barak, big deal. There are many who believe that it is a victory for secular Judaism – an oxymoron in itself. I believe it is a victory for tolerance. In 1967 the world was behind Israel and against the Arab world — now 30 years later the world demands we give up our land for their statehood. What changed … tolerance.

When you attack a group that needs clarification at best then you are feeding this small group ammunition to kill. Rabbinic law was always the way of the land — then we became less tolerant of small groups not fitting in — what did we do? We embarrassed them, put them down, made fun of them — and now they are the lions and we are the sheep.

I remember while living still in Minneapolis – Rudy Boshwitz who ran almost unopposed for years and of course won with landslide victories. One year a Jew by the name of Wellstone decided to oppose Boshwitz. Boshwitz was leading in the polls throughout the race. With seven days to the election his lead slipped in the polls to about 10% and then all heck broke loose and I shall never forget it. A letter arrived at my home on Shabbos, three days before election day. In the letter it stated that Jews should vote for Boshwitz because, “He’s the better Jew”… The Sunday Star Tribune had a field day with this, and as you may have already guessed — especially if you follow politics, Wellstone won a decisive victory. All Boshwitz was left with was apologizing for the letters sent. Someone had to press the better Jew button.

I was lambasted in a recent article by a person out of Chicago who was trying to tell me how krum (confused) my thinking is — after all why should we be tolerant of secular Jews who are trying to destroy the basic fiber of our yiddishkeit. My response was that ignorance is not bliss. It is the intolerance that we show that is tearing us apart. This of course brings me to Columbine High.

I read another Rabbi write that this would never happen in a Jewish Day School. WRONG! It would happen if our children had access which thank G-d they don’t. Just please don’t tell me that we Jewish people don’t push away people for being different and embarrass them to feel worthlessness. Our children just don’t have the access that’s all. Thank G-d every day for that.

When I went to school I was called nazi and shaygetz for 8 years, don’t ask me what being called different feels like. For what was I called that because I took a baldee haircut #5 and they took a zero? Teacher’s used to tolerate differences in children, and today the differences that is tolerated is so small that barely anyone fits into the box created for the word Average. The killer in all this of course is tolerance. If the child hums in class he’s called a trouble maker, if he falls asleep they call him ADD, if he acts out of anger we poison lo oleinu with poisonous gasses like ritalin and the like. We are a very different group of people all of us — we do not have to agree but where does the tolerance line stop and end?

I often question why Religious Jews who have a falling out choose to be NON-JEWS as opposed to non-religious Jews who have a fall out and choose to be less religious. Think about that for a moment. It’s almost as if someone is telling us that since we are on a higher level we need to tolerate less, and in fact that is furthest from the truth.

Does the Torah teach us to befriend someone who is hurting and swaying from the path, or kick his butt and call him names and tell him that you’re a better Jew? Does the Halacha say teach someone how to become better at the Jewish laws or doe sit tell you to spit at him and throw garbage at him and tell him what a rotten Jew he is? Who’s Torah are we learning?

Yes, I have opinions that differ from many sects of Jews, Yes, my opinions are valid to me. Yes, I strive to become a better person and a better Jew each and every day. Yes, I strive to become closer to Hashem and to do his will. The last thing I need is for someone to come along and tell me that my path is wrong and that my philosophy is krum. Ad Yom moso (until the death of a person) Hashem waits for his teshuva (for his return) since when do we just wait until another election?

Columbine taught me that we are getting less tolerant, Barak taught me that we will soon be forced to become more tolerant. I say this. Why wait until we need to get hit in order to learn what tolerance is all about? What is the cost of tolerance?

Don’t get me wrong the ax falls both ways. The famous story of the person on the train sitting next to a man with a black hat and beard. The man says to him “Aren’t you embarrassed sitting here dressed up like the old Europeans did — get a life for G-d sakes you, Chasidic nut!” The man turns and responds, “Pardon me, but I’m Amish!” and the first person says, “Oh I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to offend!”

On a recent trip to Dallas, someone walked up to me and said “So which part of Boro Park are you from (with a smirk on his face) ?” I responded by telling him that I do not tolerate Jews who have nothing better to do but to degrade themselves before Hashem with useless sarcastic remarks. Oh and sholom Aleichem to you to. He was shocked that a man dressed like me is from Detroit and that I am in business.

The ax falls both ways.

There are many who poo poo on those who reach out to get more people involved in their traditional Jewish values. I tolerate them too until it becomes something out of spite. Someone recently heard me talk on life after life and said “Oh, Rabbi, I didn’t know Jews believe in that too!” I was SHOCKED… Believe in that too — that is our basis — our yiddishkeit.

So now America is making tighter Gun laws as if this will stop the shootings in the schools. And in Israel secular Jews are celebrating a defeat of what they think is a defeat of Torah Jewry. What a farce!

Do me a favor, look for the good in all situations and find it in your heart to be more tolerant of the various beliefs that serve Hashem in their own ways. The second Bais hamikdash (2nd temple) was destroyed because people said upon others that they not frum enough, and that their service to Hashem is not good enough. Think about it.