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.

7 comments:

Ezzie said...

Amen.

Northern Light said...

Beautiful post. If only all disagreements between Jews could dissolve into song.

Scraps said...

Amein! If only all Jews could get along so well even when we disagree...

Thanks so much for sharing this with all of us.

Rebecca said...

Amen. Great post...

I think your post touches upon the unfortunate rivalry that does exist within our community. Those of us who pay enough attention to the phenomenon often find ourselves preaching that the fighting should end and that we should all be one big happy family. I've done that myself as well. But in truth, things should really be the way you say they are--they should be that we can disagree and still love each other. Fighting in itself can be used for both good or evil - an argument l'shem shamayim, though, is always healthy assuming it is conducted properly. It is one ideal for us to hope for peace and harmony--it is a higher ideal that calls for peace and harmony even in the face of disagreement. Yasher koach on aspiring to the higher of the two choices.

M.R. said...

Hi! And yet you didn't feel close enough to/comfortable enough with said cousins to chime in? ;)

Okee said...

I think it's so great that you were able to listen to a vehement argument and extract a beautiful message...I'm much more squeamish. I listen to such arguments with out answers but much volume and get nauseaus, uncomfortable, and often depressed.

Jew v. Jew can be a terrible thing, the most terrible thing, or it can be, as you said, a great thing, a way to learn and grow, like I imagine guys hashing it out over a gemara in yehivas.

Lvnsm27 said...

Beautiful post. We can disagree with each other and still love each other because we are family.

As for their argument, army vs. learning, I think they are both important for physical and spiritual protection.

great post