May 27, 2024
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May 27, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

This is the month of Elul. It is the time when we as Jews are preparing ourselves for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In just a few weeks we’ll be standing in front of Hashem next to our family members, friends and fellow congregants, in deep supplication, asking God, in the Unesaneh Tokef prayer, if tefillah, teshuvah and tzedekah will be enough to deflect an evil decree.

We certainly encourage discussion of any issue that emerges in our vital Jewish community. But the debate has, at times, become downright divisive. It used to be that we’d hear the words of our rabbis on Shabbos mornings ring out from the pulpit. Now those words are on the Internet, dissected and either criticized or supported in ways that our sages would never have imagined. We find that the forum for discussion is found more likely now on social networks, and that Facebook “likes” are the best we can do, in some cases, to weigh in on a discussion. Thank goodness there’s no chance of a Shabbos sermon going “viral.”

We cannot argue what is “authentic” Judaism without acknowledging the respect due to the great rabbis of our time. This is the time when we talk of the cheshbon hanefesh, or the accounting of souls. It’s not a time to use words like “reactionary” or “outdated” in reference to a rabbi’s point of view.

This spate of disrespect, be it among parents watching their kids at play at the playground or in letters to the editor, but mostly on social networks, must be done, if at all, without lashon hara or a mean-spirited tone.

Yes, we have printed some of these differing opinions. We resolve to look at everything submitted through a more respectful lens. We urge you to continue opining and sharing your thoughts, but we ask you to remember that above everything else comes civility and kavod. It’s our achdus that makes us stronger. It is the shield that protects us.

In many shuls across the world on Yom Kippur, when we get to Ne’ilah, or the final push to be sealed in the Book of Life for another year, many of our rabbanim ask us with tears in their eyes to pray as one congregation, one kehillah in unison.

With that same consideration, we ask our communities to speak respectfully to one another with a prayer-like reverence. Nobody, not a rabbi nor a congregant, deserves disrespect in print or online or even in conversation. Soon it will be selichos. It’s time, more now than ever, to be careful how we frame our words. The Jewish people will be judged in the coming weeks. Let’s hope that for all of us, in this world together, that respecting that judgment is enough for us to guard our words.

We resolve to help lead this charge.

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