This post is dedicated in merit that Hershel ben Etya Sarah have a yeshuah.
Recently, while sitting at the Shabbat (Sabbath) table of a dear acquaintance, I overheard one of the guests sharing an recent experience with her friend. She said, "I was visiting the kotel (Western Wall) last Wednesday and after davening (praying) I asked one of the woman there, someone who frequents the kotel, why the Jews [in Israel] are suffering from so many stabbings. The lady, whose back was bent with age, squinted up at me and replied, 'Because we stab each other with our words,'" at which point I broke into the conversation and said, "I'm sorry but who gives someone to he power to speak for G-d." My words were tinged with annoyance.
My acquaintance, the Rebbetzin Freedman, gave me a sad smile. "There is something to it," she said, "It says in Proverbs (23:21), 'He who watches his mouth and tongue guards his soul from troubles.'"
The table was silent for a several moments. Each of us was preoccupied. Images, a kaleidoscope of friends from sects I've made in Israel, flooded my mind: the black hatters, the knitted kipot (skullcaps), the long, flowery dresses and the calf length black skirts. Each outfit was significant in that, like wrapping paper, it came cloaked around a neatly packaged world view. This shouldn't come as a surprise: clothes have been drawn from philosophical musings since Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Anyone could spot a priest, business man or tree hugging hippie from a mile away and "Anyone who's got what to represent dresses to represent."
In terms of group dynamics in Israel (and if we're being really honest, everywhere), not only do people with similar philosophies share an identical uniform, they're usually snobby about who they interact with. Birds of a feather flock together and some of us would rather get hit by a bus than be caught talking to that guy. Sure, individuals might drop pretenses and decide to get along. Then again, they might not. I don't pretend that there are those who don't give the once over and a glance that speak volumes. Anthropologists haven't established that people judge each other based on externals like shirt patterns and vocal fluency for nothing.
While the saints of humanity do try to see past such nonentities, the bulk of our ranks don't. We judge whether we like it or not. It's not a bad thing; it just is. Like every character trait G-d has created in the human psyche, the art of judgment simply needs channeling. I say, instead of taking the short-long road and preaching the beauty of a non judgmental world, shelve the soapbox and take a stroll down the long-short road by learning how to deal with the reality as it is. I'd love to leave you with a "If you have nothing nice to say just smile and shadup." but that leaves even me with a bad taste. How do we channel our judgments of different classes, differing opinions? We could try focusing on what we have in common. We could try killing our hate with kindness... I'm sure the list is endless. Let me know if you have any ideas.