Religious Life

Crowned with Brotherhood? – A Weekly Letter from Rabbi Alexander Davis – November 16, 2018

Shalom Chaverim,

We are commanded in the Torah, “do not hate your brother in your heart” (Lev. 19:17). Why does the Torah refer to hatred “in your heart?” It could have simply said, “Do not hate your brother.”

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, in his Book of Jewish Values explains, “categorically prohibiting dislike would not end it, but would just drive the enmity underground- into the heart.” Thus, rather than keep the hatred in your heart where it will fester, we are called upon to confront the person who has angered us. Rather than nursing the grievance, addressing it offers the possibly of resolving or at least reducing the animosity.

But how can we have a productive confrontation? And why should we invest the time?

These are questions not only for our interpersonal lives. They are critical issues facing our nation. We are a divided country. Like you, I worry about our seeming inability to engage in civil discourse across party lines. Not surprisingly, we have begun to see hatred erupt from underground in violent acts.  

I mentioned on Rosh Hashanah that there are people- some right in our own back yard- working to bridge the gap, to depolarize America. One such person is University of Minnesota Professor, William Doherty. He is applying his expertise in family therapy as a model for addressing political division in our nation. A well-known speaker for the bipartisan citizen’s movement, Better Angels, he is working to build an alliance between liberals and conservatives.

I invite you to Doherty’s lecture this Sunday morning (10:00am) at The Well. This will be followed on Dec. 11, (6:00pm) by a skills workshop at JFCS. The workshop will give participants the tools to bridge the partisan divide.

What a perfect way to prepare for the inevitable political discussion around our Thanksgiving tables. And what an important way each of us can begin to heal our nation.

The Torah commands, “do not hate your brother in your heart.” Hate threatens the crown of our brotherhood from sea to shining sea. For the sake of family and country, we must remove rancor and build trust and understanding to usher in a better tomorrow.

Rabbi Alexander Davis