This is a stressful topic.
It has already been an emotional, tenuous, and divisive debate. J-Street is in favor, AIPAC is opposed. Members of Israel’s security establishment are in favor; left, center, and right parties in Israel are opposed. According to polling, as many as 56% of Americans are in favor of the deal. There is a surprisingly nuanced spectrum amongst Presidential candidates, with few coming out strongly on either side. Then there are the rabbis in Los Angeles - Rabbi Wolpe is opposed, Rabbi Braus is in favor. Some say the deal is worse than no deal, some say the deal is the best we’re likely to get.
But in less than two months, Congress will vote. In that period of time, each of us has a sacred task: to think, to engage, and to debate with civility and with love.
This weekend is the confluence of the week’s Torah portion, D’varim - the first in the book of Deuteronomy, Shabbat Chazon - known as the Sabbath of vision, and the holiday Tisha B’av - and each of them have something to teach us about baseless hatred and the Iran deal.
In this week’s Torah portion, D’varim, Moses speaks to the assembled masses and humbly takes stock: “Adonai your God has made-you-many- and here you are today, like the stars in the heavens for multitude!…How can I carry, I alone, your load, your burden, your quarreling?” (Deut. 1:10, 12 - Fox translation) Moses then goes on to establish courts and delegates the burden of leadership. The great Torah commentator, Rashi, focuses on the word “burden,” teaching that the “burden” Moses refers to are the scoffers, those who exhibited non-acceptable behavior.
How many times in recent weeks have we seen articles that are titled, “Here’s why the deal is good or bad according to people who know what they’re talking about.” While the sentiment of presenting information from trusted sources is admirable, the way these articles are framed scoffs at those who disagree - “Here’s why your opinion is wrong according to people who know more than you do.”
Scoffing at someone’s opinion - that, my friends, is not debate. That is baseless hatred.
This is a special Shabbat called “Shabbat Chazon - the Sabbath of vision.” It is the Shabbat right before Tisha B’av. Opposed to Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat right before Yom Kippur which is known as the “White Sabbath,” Shabbat Chazon is known as “Black Sabbath.”
On Shabbat Chazon, the Haftarah portion is the first chapter of Isaiah, which tells us, “limdu heiteiv - learn to do good.” Treat the opinion of others with respect. Learn to do good.
Not treating the Other with respect, even if they have an opinion that is different than yours - that, my friends, is not helpful. That is baseless hatred.
Sunday, we will be observing Tisha B’av - a fast day which is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. Tisha B’av commemorates the anniversary of a number of disasters in Jewish history which all happened on this day. Both the first and second temples in Jerusalem were destroyed on Tisha B’av. The First Crusade began on Tisha B’av. The Jews were expelled from England in 1290, France in 1306, and Spain in 1492 on Tisha B’av. Germany entered World War 1 on Tisha B’av. The “Final Solution” was approved by the Nazi Party on Tisha B’av. The list goes on and on and on.
Our tradition teaches us that each of these destructions was due to one thing: Sinat Chinam, or baseless hatred.
This Tisha B’av, will you engage in debate with respect? Or will you engage in baseless hatred, scoffing at your friends and others in your community? Will you listen and respond with kindness and an open heart, or will you destroy your neighbor’s temple?
If we could predict the future, there wouldn’t even be a debate about the Iran deal. No one knows what will happen. Indeed, I may end up with a different position than Rabbi Eger and some of you - but we all want peace, love and understanding. Our job is to create a world with less baseless hatred. We can disagree, for sure. Indeed, it’s kinda our thing. But there also comes a time when we have to accept and respect someone else’s thoughtful position, even if it is different from our own.