Jewish Journal

The Highest Principle

by Rabbi Mark Borovitz

November 23, 2012 | 1:49 pm

The Torah teaches us to place principles over personalities. It tells us to help even our enemy if they are in dire straits. I believe in this principle because it is what allows for forgiveness when we have been harmed. We become open to take on the obligation of redemption for others and ourselves. Rather than wanting to hate others, we can then see the good in them.

Yet, this principle can be bastardized as well. In speaking with two Israeli women yesterday at Thanksgiving dinner, I witnessed their pain over the situation in Israel and the Middle East. They told me about past friendships with Arab individuals and how they played together, went to school together and worked together. When the war broke out in 1948, one young Arab woman told her Jewish "friend" that in a few days she would "cut her throat"! I noticed her bewilderment as she recounted the story of her sadness and confusion as a 16-year-old. Then her daughter spoke about her friends and co-workers telling her that they would kill her first, even though they socialized and shared so much together. Both of these women wondered how this could be.

I understand the thinking. The Arabs, and some Jews I am sure, kept the principle of taking care of their own first, last and always. They saw “the other” as a person when there was no war and it didn't conflict with their "cause". When they put their "cause" over their ability to see the other as a human being and one of G-d's creations; “the other” became an object that was an obstacle to their "principles". This is when Principles over Personalities get bastardized.

In theTalmud we are taught that each person has infinite dignity and worth according to Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, in the name of Shimon Ben Azzai. In the Torah we are taught that each of us is created Tzelum Elokim, in the Image of G-d. Until everyone lives this principle, there can be no peace, no co-existence in Israel, the Middles East, or the world.

We have to redeem this principle and lift it above our causes—no matter how noble we think the causes are. Hamas is an organization that believes in the destruction of their "enemies", real and imagined. The people of TERROR, just like all fundamentalists, do not believe in Tzelum Elokim. They don't subscribe to "love your neighbor as yourself.” This is what makes talking to them seem impossible, it is what makes peace so difficult to achieve. We have to get world leaders and all people, to place the principles of Human Dignity and Worth, each of us being made in G-d's image—and love your neighbor as yourself, above all causes.

When we do this, we will redeem the world. We will make Tikkun Olam a reality. Israel is not perfect—I know this. We hear about the occupation of the Palestinians all the time. We have to redeem the Truth of the situation as well. The Arab nations kept Israeli’s as “the others” prior to 1967. The Arab Nations have done next to nothing to make peace and allow Israel to exist from 1948 on. Where are these facts when reporting on the situation? Let us redeem the Truth of the siege mentality that the Israeli people have had to live under since before 1948!

We have the power as individuals to place the principle of Human Dignity, Worth and Love above any particular causes. I ask you to join me in being Addicted to Redeeming the Worth of each individual and Redeeming Principles and Truth over our desires and causes.

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