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  • Writer's pictureRachel Shifra Tal

Faith in Humanity

What do we do when the world falls down around us? One of the drawbacks of living only one lifetime and one lifespan is what happens to us in the here and now can feel like the worst or best experience ever. My favorite people to hang out with are usually more than 30 years older than I am. They have incredible knowledge and perspective. They also are the most inspiring and calming people. A few weeks ago, it felt that no news could be bigger than covid19, not in a hundred years. Yet in one week the tragic and preventable death of a young black man seemed to tear everything apart. All the pent up frustration at injustice, and the devastation people are feeling, exploded out of them. Like the straw that broke the camel's back. I watched in awe of those marching and taking one knee in a safe social distancing manner, then seemingly overnight the United States erupted with riots that were completely out of control. How did we go there so fast? Did I miss a step? What has happened to the world? One day we are united against a virus the next divided in rage. This is where people with perspective come in. The first thing I did was begin to Google quotes by those who have been through tremendously dark periods of humanity. My question to these heroes of the past, how did you keep your faith in humanity? I didn't have to look far at all, injustice, hatred, pain and dark horrific acts of humans to other humans literally litters all of history. This information alone isn't a comfort, because knowing the world has and is always filled with tremendous suffering, injustice and pain doesn't help. I learned very early living in this world that one of the best ways to survive is to stop asking why, but change the question to “what now?” Bigotry, racism, hatred, intolerance, people have tried for centuries to delve to the root cause, where has it gotten us? A word that terrifies me has come to the fore, reverse racism. Have we replaced one form of racism with another? Instead of getting stuck on the question “why did this happen?” we need to focus on “what now?” What can we do? Can people hold different views and still respect one another? What about different religions? Politics? Why can't we tolerate differences? This question, has had no answer that suits. It never has. How can we tolerate others? This question may be more answerable. I don't have the answers, so instead will bring in the wisdom from our sages and the Torah. Here are a few possible ways. Try them on for size and let's see if they might be able to help with the what now? The Torah does not waste one word, every letter, every line every phrase is perfectly poised and the information contained within holds a message and meaning for us. G-D does not need to boast, arrogance is a human quality, we don't diminish our Creator with these human traits. So why did G-d describe creation to us? Why does it matter? Yes, wow the entire world was created, but why is it so important that it is the first thing the Torah tells us? Does knowing how and when we are created really matter? It does for beings who decide they are better or more important than others, it matters to racism. ALL of humanity was created from the same, one and only Adam. There was no other being that we come from. We all come from the same one! More than that, human kind was created AFTER animals! G-D gave us a blessing that when we use our capacity for good and kindness, and that we rule over the animal world with justice and fairness. When we use our gifts for destruction, the animals rule over us. Another possible answer. How can people tolerate each other when different? I actually dislike the word tolerate, it makes that which one is tolerating sound awful. How about this? How can we actually know and see each other WITH our differences? Men, women, race, religion, politics? Each of these categories is different. Equality means treating all as the same, but we aren't. A man and a woman are not the same. Not just the physical differences come to mind. Equal is not a term that works. What about, respect? The word respect means: “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” However, respect with that definition sounds conditional. Can you respect someone without regard for their abilities, qualities, or achievements? Without a condition? Well, yes but carefully. We need a two-fold process. So let's add another word. Go back with me to the creation again, G-D made humanity in G-D'S image. This, this is the key. Judaism believes that a person is born, pure, in the image of G-D. We run into trouble when we make G-D in our image, but that is another article. Humanity needs free will. The most successful societies are built upon the freedoms of their people. Freedom to choose what we believe, to hold that freedom even if it is different from yours. We need an extra clause or step. This respect for the person no matter how different, this basic respect that we are all from one source. What happens when the choices that a person makes in their lives with their free will result in bad consequences, and not good? We need to respond with this basic understanding of humankind in place. Can we do this? Can we punish the deed not withstanding the persons differences from us? And this needs to go both ways, can we lift up and celebrate the persons good deeds the same way? These heroes who lived through tragic and dark periods in human history. I believe they keep this basic respect and understanding. This belief sustains them and they led others to believe. A few inspiring quotes. "If you cannot find the faith in humanity, be the faith in humanity" Unknown "Just as despair can only come to one from other human beings, hope too can only come from other human beings" Elie Weisel "Don't take the burden's of the world's problems upon yourself, don't ignore them either. As Rabbi Tar'fun put it, the work is not upon you to complete, but neither are you exempt from trying" Babylonian Talmud Avot 2.21

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