There was a man who was feeling constantly ill and irritable; moreover, he had occasional pains in his stomach. The doctor that he went to examined him and sent him for a variety of tests, but the examination and the tests did not reveal any inner cause of his problems. The suffering man decided to go to another doctor who was recommended by a friend. This doctor specialized in nutrition, and unlike the previous doctor, he asked the suffering patient to describe his diet. After the patient described his diet, the doctor realized that this patient was only eating foods which were very high in the following items; sugar, fats, caffeine, and chemical preservatives! The doctor prescribed a healthy diet of natural foods, and he told the patient, “Listen well to me and eat well, and your body will be rejuvenated.” The patient followed the doctor’s diet, and he began to feel better.
The hot weather of summer arrived, and the patient once again began to feel irritable; moreover, most of his old symptoms returned, including the pain in his stomach. He went back to the doctor to complain, as he told the doctor that he was eating all the right foods. The doctor asked, “But what are you drinking in this hot weather?” The patient admitted that he had started to drink about 20 cups a day of a very sugary soda which nutritionists considered to be the worst soda on the market, as it was full of chemical preservatives. The doctor warned him that the benefits of eating natural and nutritious food would be limited, if he kept drinking all day a soda full of harmful toxins!
Many of us are nurturing our souls each day through the study of Torah, the life-giving Divine Teaching. Regarding this nourishment, Hashem proclaimed:
“Listen well to Me and eat what is good, and let your soul delight in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me; listen and your soul will rejuvenate” (Isaiah 55:2, 3).
The human soul is a spark of the Divine essence, and the loving and giving nature of the soul is to remind us that we are created in the image of the Loving and Giving One. The teachings of the Torah are to nurture the soul and enable us to express its loving and giving nature.
The benefits of this healthy spiritual diet may be limited, however, if one is also absorbing each day dangerous “toxins” which can hurt the health of one’s soul. For example, there is a dangerous “toxin” which is spread by the media and the internet, including the blabbering blogs. This is the “toxin” of hatred – the hatred of other individuals and/or groups.
In this letter, I will discuss a particular toxin which is spread by much of the Israeli and other Jewish media, including many of the Jewish blogs – the toxin of hatred towards our Jewish brothers and sisters in the “other” Jewish community. Why am I discussing this “toxin” in a series titled, “My Search for the Soul of Zion”? It is because this toxin can cause us to feel disconnected from Zion’s soul; thus, this toxin can prevent us from expressing the loving and giving nature of this soul.
Before we can discuss the danger of this toxin, we need to become more aware that not everything in the media, including the Jewish media, is true and completely accurate. I once read a letter from a medical scholar to the New York Times which challenged the accuracy of the media. He said that most of the articles in the media that he read on subjects which were his areas of expertise were full of inaccuracies. As he pointed out, he knows that they are inaccurate, because these are his areas of expertise. He therefore wondered how he could have trust in the accuracy of all the other articles in the media which are about subjects which are not his areas of expertise. Some of you may recall that the New York Times fired one of its top journalists when it was discovered that this journalist was fabricating stories and providing false information over a long period!
A few years ago, there was an English-language radio station in Israel known as “Radio West,” and one of their programs featured a discussion with a group of noted Israeli journalists. These were journalists who grew up in English-speaking countries and who later moved to Israel where they became successful Israeli journalists. They represented the spectrum of Israeli Jewish society, from the political right to the political left. And all of them offered the following critique of Israeli journalism:
The majority of Israeli journalists feel free to distort the news and give false information in order to promote their own political perspective!
As the members of the panel pointed out, these Israeli journalists view all their writing, including news reports, as opportunities for political propaganda.
The majority of Israeli journalists consider themselves to be secular leftists, and the above revelation from their colleagues helped me to understand why many of these journalists attempt to promote their ideological agenda by writing inaccurate articles which present a distorted and ugly stereotype of two Orthodox Jewish communities: the Chareidi Jews and the National Religious Jews who settled in the Golan, Shomron, and Judah, after the Six Day War.
To help you understand my feelings about this bigotry, I will share with you the following information about my background: My parents were leftists, and during my early childhood, my father claimed that he was an agnostic; however, my mother taught me and my sister to say prayers to God before going to sleep. Before I started to become a Torah-observant Jew within the Orthodox community, my father had some negative misconceptions about Orthodox Jews, but he never had the vitriolic hatred of Orthodox Jews which is found among many Israeli leftists; in fact, he spoke out strongly against hatred of entire groups of people because of their ethnic, racial, or religious identity. Through my becoming a Torah-observant Jew, my parents began to meet Orthodox Jews who were devoted to spiritual ideals and who were busy with acts of loving-kindness which they viewed as “mitzvos” – Divine mandates. Through these encounters, and through observing my spiritual growth as an Orthodox Jew, my father abandoned his previous misconceptions about Orthodox Jews; moreover, he developed increasing respect for Orthodox Jews and their devotion to mitzvos. In his older years, my father still considered himself to be a leftist, but he longer claimed to be an agnostic, for he began to openly express his faith in Hashem, and he revealed his belief in Divine Providence.
In a previous letter, “Please Don’t Hate Me,” I cited recent examples of hateful and inaccurate articles about Chareidi Jewish men and women. In addition, I described my background as a Jewish community activist who became familiar with the prejudices towards other Jews which are found in diverse Jewish communities. And I added:
“I also became familiar with the Jewish media and the way some journalists reinforce these prejudices. My experience leads me to make the following painful but honest statement: In my entire adult life, I have never encountered such a campaign of hatred against particular Jewish communities, as I have encountered in much of the Jewish media in Israel and the Diaspora during the past few years towards Chareidi men and women and towards the Religious Zionist men and women in Judah, the Shomron and the Golan.”
As I indicated, I was not speaking about honest discussion and debates regarding differing views; I was speaking about hate-filled articles which promote an ugly and distorted stereotype of entire communities.
Yes, much of the Jewish media in Israel and the Diaspora is spreading the toxins of hatred towards these two religious communities. Sensitive spiritual individuals who desire to maintain the health of their souls should therefore be careful not to absorb these toxins.
I have spent most of my life trying to combat the hate-producing prejudices that some Jews have for Jews in the “other” community. For example, I have challenged the prejudices that some non-Orthodox Jews have towards Orthodox Jews through sharing with them information and Torah teachings which give them a more accurate and loving perspective. And I have challenged the prejudices that some Orthodox Jews have towards non-Orthodox Jews through sharing with them information and Torah teachings which give them a more accurate and loving perspective. My sensitive nature is repulsed by these hate-producing prejudices. I therefore have decided to avoid any Jewish publication, website, or blog which spreads these toxins of hatred.
We have begun the three-week mourning period for the destruction of the First and Second Temples. The Talmud states that a major cause of the destruction of the Second Temple and the resulting long exile was the hatred that Jews had for each other (Yuma 9b). Let us therefore be careful not to absorb the toxins of hatred which are being spread by the media, websites, and blogs. In this way we can protect our souls and thereby become happier and healthier people who are devoted to spreading the healing energy of love.
Be Well, and Shalom,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen ( See below)
A Related Insight and Teaching:
As we began to discuss in this series, we are living in the period of the difficult birth pangs of the approaching birth of the messianic age. During this period, the old toxin of hatred towards the Jewish people is surfacing all over the world; moreover, the old toxin of hatred between Jews is also surfacing. I learned from various healers that an illness can seem to get worse before the healing begins, as all the toxins begin rising to the surface in order to be completely eliminated. This awareness led to the following idea:
Perhaps all the old toxins of hatred are now rising to the surface, in order to be completely eliminated before the birth of the messianic age of universal enlightenment and shalom.
2. One of our great prophets is “Eliyahu” – Elijah. According to Jewish tradition, Elijah periodically returns to the earth, often disguised, and he reveals the deeper wisdom of Torah to the great souls of the generation. There is an ancient Midrashic work known as, “Tanna Devei Eliyahu,” and it contains many Torah teachings which Elijah revealed to the great sage, Rabbi Anan. There is a teaching in this work which cites the following Divine message to our people:
“My beloved children! Is there anything I lack that I should have to ask of you? All I ask of you is that you love one another, that you honor one another, that you respect one another. In this way, no sin, robbery, or based deed will be found among you, so that you will remain undefiled forever. Thus it is written (Micah 6:8): ‘He has told you, O human being, what is good! What does Hashem require of you but to do justice, love loving-kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.’ ” (Tanna Dvei Eliyahu 28)