Sunday, August 05, 2007

One Family

I recently returned from an all-too-brief trip to the Holy Land where, among other things, I celebrated the wedding of my 20-year-old cousin to a wonderful (and very quiet) girl. The trip was amazing, and I did and saw and felt so many things. Since there’s no way to record them all, I’ll start with one event that made me think.

Two shabboses ago was shabbos sheva brachot, and there was a meal for the families and close friends of both the chatan and kallah—nearly 100 people—at a hotel on Friday night. Then on shabbos day the families ate separately. Those of us on the chatan’s side had lunch at his family’s house, where they fit forty people into their living room/dining room. One table was designated for the “under 25” constituent, and midway into lunch a heated debate began at our table. The chatan and his family moved to Israel from LA about 17 years ago and they are modern and extremely tzioni. Their cousins on their mother’s side, however, are chareidi, and this led to an interesting, um, “discussion.” Along one side of the table sat five chareidi cousins (ranging in age from about 17 to 6) and on the other side sat the chatan’s brothers, sister, and a few other like-minded friends and family. A very heated debate broke out in rapid Hebrew between the chareidi cousins and the chatan’s 15-year-old brother about serving in the Israeli army and the role of learning in modern life. Shortly all five chareidi kids were yelling at my cousin, as he sat and attempted to calmly respond to their arguments. A bemused crowd gathered to listen to a debate we knew would never be settled. A food fight seemed imminent, as all appeared on the verge of suddenly snapping.

As I watched, however, it occurred to me that as heated as the debate seemed to be, it was a very healthy phenomenon. The arguers were members of the same family. They are very close, they love one another, and yet they disagree passionately. When my uncle began singing zmiros loudly their argument was interrupted, and within a minute everyone was singing together as if the debate had never occurred. This drove home the point to me.

The ability to hear a perspective disparate from one’s own, to argue, to debate, and yet to love one another is a beautiful thing and extremely important. This ability comes naturally when dealing with one’s close family, but if only we could extend it to all of klall Yisrael, the world would be a much better place. Really, all Jews are family, and as much as we may disagree, we should listen to one another, hear a new perspective, and unite in the end, conscious and secure in our mutual affection despite—and because of—our differences.