Repairing Our Bridges

By Rabbi Elie Estrin

We are entering into a period known as the three weeks, which is the time between the anniversary of the breach of the walls of Jerusalem and the eventual destruction of the Temple. Our Sages tell us that the destruction of the Temple was the result of baseless hatred, and the history of the period bears that out. In short, there were several political camps at the time, pacifists, fanatic nationalists, and moderates. When the dialogue between them broke down, so did any chance of resolving the issues, and the result was disastrous.

But when considering that history, one may question why the Sages describe this as baseless hatred? After all, these were opinions based in clear views, each with their intellectual grounding. It would only make sense that all involved would be at odds, and even vehemently so, considering the desperate circumstances. Can that be considered baseless hatred?

As I reflect on this story and its eternal relevance to us, I think we have neglected the second word in the statement, hatred. Once the parties were split in hatred, they became completely dysfunctional. Vehemence, passion, and fiery dialogue is understandable, but when we descend into hatred of the other side of our own team, we’re in big trouble. Ultimately, any such self-inflicted injury has no excuse. It is truly baseless. Blame who you want, but once the Temple is afire, all the finger-pointing is irrelevant.

It is clear our country needs to take the lessons of this history to heart, and fast. Even worse, our Jewish community and its leadership has allowed the circumstances to drive deep wedges between us. Left, right, and moderates are no longer on talking terms, and anti-Semites have crawled out of their holes to take advantage of the breaches. As veterans, we know we need to step up when the time calls for it. Now is the time for us to urgently repair those bridges and create unity despite differences of opinion. Let us stand up with Jewish pride and strength, and arm-in-arm declare openly and clearly: Am Yisrael Chai!

Rabbi Estrin is a chaplain with the rank of Captain-Promotable in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, attached to the 6th Air Refueling Wing at MacDill Air Force Base. In his civilian job, Estrin serves as the Military Personnel Liaison for the Aleph Institute, providing chaplains and Jewish service members with religious support, and is the editor of the Jewish-American Warrior magazine, as well as the author of a just-published book, “Of Medicine, Miracles and Mindsets,” released by Mosaica Press.

Volume 75. Number 2. 2021