Love Rising: Shabbat Message by Rabbi Dan Levin

Shabbat Message by Rabbi Dan Levin graphic for Temple Beth El of Boca Raton

Our world is convulsing in hatred – in a Wal-Mart by a hate-filled manager, in a dance club by a hate-filled loner, by a popular rapper who said: “I see good things about Hitler,” by a smug white-supremacist who claims that immigrants, feminists, and gay people contribute to a “bastardized Jewish subversion of the American creed. The Founders never intended for America to be a refugee camp for nonwhite people.”

Our society is awash in hatred.

Hate rises from a place of fear, of anger, of wound, and pain.

Hate rises from a sense of weakness and disempowerment.

Hate rises from an indignance at offense or wrong.

Hate rises from a resentment when holy things are desecrated, when immutable values are trampled, when that which we cherish is denigrated, canceled or defeated.

Hate rises from feeling unseen, unheard, unvalued.

Hate rises from feeling oppressed, ignored, invalidated.

Hate makes the weak feel strong.  Hate makes the disempowered feel powerful.  Hate makes the insignificant feel significant.  Hate emboldens the fearful, galvanizes the insecure, and makes the downtrodden feel larger.

Hate is a magic wand of falsehood.  A person who carries a torch around Charlottesville, Virginia shouting “Jews will not replace us” creates an aura of power.  He can instill fear in those who he seeks to intimidate.  But his power is fleeting.  It may temporarily instill in him a sense of relevance or strength, but as soon as he puts down his gun and returns to his home, the sense of insecurity and irrelevance will overtake him once again.

A person who plasters signs across a college campus declaring “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free” creates an aura of power. She can pump herself up with self-righteous disdain, can silence or cancel ideas she detests.  But her power is fleeting.  Her hatred will never salve the wounds of displacement or injustice she feels, nor alter the conditions she wishes to ameliorate.

James Baldwin once said: “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

Our world can be a very painful place.  It is terrifying to be handed a pink-slip in a one-factory town.  It is agonizing to wonder if you can put food on your table.  It is demoralizing to see others reap richer rewards than you despite your best efforts and hard work.  It is enraging to experience trauma and hurt, to be wounded by someone else.

It is reassuring to be told that it’s someone else’s fault that you’re suffering.  It is comforting to be told that your beliefs are on a higher plane of morality, that you are right and they are wrong, that God loves you more.  It is empowering to make the mighty feel weak, the arrogant feel afraid, to make those who hurt you feel hurt.

Hatred is a virus that will destroy its host.  If we hold hatred in our hearts, it will destroy our souls.  If we tolerate hatred in our society, it will destroy our world.

We must be unwavering and steadfast in fighting antisemitism.  We cannot tolerate the proliferation of white supremacy and neo-Nazi bigotry.  We cannot tolerate the proliferation of conspiracy theories or antisemitic canards about Jewish control of world finance, media, or politics. We cannot tolerate efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel or to use anti-Zionist garments to hide antisemitic discrimination.

But in combatting hatred we cannot fall prey to hatred ourselves.  Martin Luther King was right: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

We need remove the lenses of judgment and certitude we use to see our world and each other, and instead replace them with lenses of curiosity and inquisitiveness. Instead of shouting invective and hurling vitriol at one another, we need instead to open our hearts to listen, to consider, and to learn.

Ambassador David Friedman last night said this is “a very dark day.”  As hate rises in our world, let love rise even higher in our hearts.

Shabbat Shalom,

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