I’m going to tell you a secret that will change your life.
It was the 16th of Adar – Purim in Jerusalem, 5768. I had played a long dance set with my friend Yehuda David on the guitar, and myself on the keyboard and vocals for a small American Yeshiva in the neighborhood of Ezras Torah. We finished the job and went to the nearby shteiblach to daven Mariv. In the spirit of everyone around us, we decided to act jolly, despite the fact that we had finished our Purim two days previous. (Purim for Ramat Bet Shemesh was on Friday the 14th, Purim in Jerusalem was pushed from Shabbos the 15th to Sunday the 16th.)
We sang in the street as we walked toward shul, walking with a bit of a limp, smiling and showing love towards the multi-colored Jews of all stripes who passed by.
As we came into the shtieblach, I was singing a drop too loud. A young bochur, probably around 17, saw me, and in his slightly drunken state yelled at me to quiet down (note the irony). I did lower the volume, but did not stop singing. He evidently was unable to discern between the decible levels, and kept yelling at me to stop singing.
In my jolly (non-alcoholic!) mood, I decided at that moment that I would balance this drunken kid’s anger with love. My love did not stop him from kicking me in my rear end, but it did stop me from getting upset at all, boruch Hashem. I tried to hug him after his ‘gift’ to me, but he wasn’t interested.
I proceeded to daven Mariv with a full heart.
What I realized from this interaction was that someone can literally hate me because I don’t fit into his version of reality, and I contradict some tenet that he knows to be the basis of morality. But it doesn’t mean I have to hate him. It also doesn’t mean that I have to take offense.
I can love another Jew completely, no matter who he is, and no matter what he feels about me. I can recognize that the negative feelings he has for me come from a place that is no different than someone who has become intoxicated – namely irrationality. Because someone who knows the truth knows that Hashem wants diversity, and does not want a nation of carbon copy cookie cutter robots. He therefore also realizes that he need not be threatened by someone else’s lack of conformity to his standards.
This also frees me, because even though I can have love for all Jews no matter who they are and what their background, they do not have to conform to my standard of love in order to receive my love. They do not have to be a cookie cutter version of me – otherwise I am holding them to a higher standard than I want them to hold me!
The secret is to love every Jew, and even the Jew who hates me. Even the Jew that sees me as a lower class individual – it is irrelevant. Hashem loves every single human being – even the most evil people who rebel against him. I can also love any person – even those who ‘rebel’ against my validity and would say I am perhaps not a good enough Jew.
The secret is to know that I can not be offended until I allow myself to be offended.
Once I learn to love everyone unconditionally, I can pray with a full heart.
Thanks to Daniel for the inspiration for this post.