“Hine mah tov umanim shevet achim gam yachad.”
Psalms 133: 1 How wonderful it is when brothers are sitting together.
We all have a common Father. We, as humans, lack the ability to truly understand how to relate to God, to speak to God, to connect to God. So we are only left to try to communicate with God in our normal human way as if we were speaking to another person. When is a parent the happiest? When his or her children are together, speaking together, building together. On the divine level, what is result of human fraternity? It is making our common one Father in heaven so happy that His children are together. We should understand and appreciate that what we are doing here today is bringing happiness and joy to the Creator of the universe.
The concept of one common Father goes back to the creation of the world. The Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 4:5 asks the question of why did God create only one couple to begin the world, Adam and Eve. God could have created just as easily 10 couples or 100 couples. What can we learn from the fact that God started the world by creating only one human couple. The Talmud states that the reason is: “ For the sake of peace among humans that no one can say that my father is greater than yours”. God starts the world by creating only Adam and Eve in order to bring human fraternity into the world. Therefore, it is our shared responsibility to strengthen and deepen human fraternity.
In the Torah, in the third book of Moses, Leviticus 19:18, we read: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. This simple and straightforward statement is a key to our human fraternity. Not only is this a key concept in Judaism as Rabbi Akiva stated 2,000 years ago that this sentence is the most basic concept of Judaism. This concept is also found in the New Testament several times such as Mathew 19:18, Mark 12:31 and Romans 13:9. Or in Hadith 13 in the Islamic tradition.
How is this concept applied in the Jewish law and tradition? Maimonides, the 12th century Jewish philosopher and medical doctor to the Egyptian Sultan stated in his work the Mishne Torah, Hilchot Deot 6:3 as regards how each individual should relate to another individual:
“Therefore, you must speak of the other’s praises, to be careful with his money as you are with your own money, respect him as you want to be respected.”
Simple and practical guidelines.
Maimonides continues: “One who rejoices in the downfall of his colleague will have no place in the world to come”.
Even if a person is perfectly observant of all other religious requirements, but rejoices in the misfortune of another, he loses his place in heaven. And for the Rabbis, there is no greater punishment.
Maimonides also stated in Hilchot Evel 14:1: All that you desire that should be done to you, is what you should do to others”.
Or as Hillel responded over 2,000 years ago as recorded in the Talmud Tractate Shabbat 31a when asked to summarize the entire Torah while standing on one foot: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah.”
If we want to understand the key to human fraternity it begins with yourself. What do you want from a relationship? How do you want the other to relate to you, to speak to you, to be with you? What do you not want someone to say to you or to respond to you. Therefore, the first step in attempting human fraternity is to understand yourself. Whatever you yourself desire is how you should relate to the other. And whatever you do not want to be said to you or done to you, you never do to the other.
Simplistic but real and possible.
We need to explain to our communities that when we encounter another person, our goal or hope is to encounter the holy spark that is found in each and every human being. Human encounter is not for me to persuade the other that I am right but rather to attempt to understand why the other believes and thinks differently than myself. In that way we can try to connect to the holy spark in each and every person we meet. There are many paths to God. I deeply believe that Judaism is the best way for me to connect to God. And I also understand that others can have other paths to connect to God and that each of them find is the best way for that person.
But how can we explain this concept to our communities. Let me share with you a thought that I have often used while trying to explain this concept to our youth. There is a page on my computer screen. I want to print that page. I can click on the icon for printer or I can click on the upper left hand corner and then click on print and then click on print again or I can use control P and click on print. Three different ways and different people choose different ways to print the page on their computer screen. And if you have a Mac, there is yet another way. Each person is certain that they have the best way to print the page. And yet each is printing the same page.
I pray that we can reach a time in the very near future when we can all respect the different ways to print a page and also to respect and embrace the diversity and fraternity of the many different paths to the same one God that we all believe in and worship.”
Rabbi Michael Schudrich
Chief Rabbi of Poland
February 3, 2019