Co-Operation & Kindness: A Jewish Perspective

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Stephen Wise

Stephen Wise

Rabbi Wise has focused much of his rabbinate in striving passionately to connect Jews of all ages to their Judaism. Whether its through prayer services, learning or social action, each presents a gateway to stronger Jewish identity. Rabbi Wise has worked recently developing programming for young adults in their 20-30's, starting ongoing successful groups in NYC and Florida, reigniting their connections to Judaism. Rabbi Wise is the spiritual leader for Oakville's Jewish community, and his congregation is Shaarei Beth-El on Morrison Road.

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Seeing our American friends going through the government shut down this week reminds me of a great story.  There was once a man named Bar Kamza, and another man named Kamza.  They often got mistaken for one another.  A man named Yehonatan was having a party and really wanted Kamza to come but his messenger sent the invitation to Bar Kamza (his hated enemy) by mistake. 

When Bar Kamza got the invitation he was pleasantly surprised that his enemy had invited him to a party, graciously accepted and went.  When Yehonatan saw it was Bar Kamza at the door, he flew into a rage and demanded he leave, embarrassing him in the process.  Bar Kamza begged to be allowed to stay but Yehonatan stood firm sending Bar Kamza out the door.

We call this in Judaism “Sinat Chinam” which means baseless hatred.  We are taught it was because of these types of interactions that the Great Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. The Romans also had something to do with this, but it was because the Jews were fighting amongst themselves they could not work together for the betterment of the Jewish community as a whole.

It seems in the American politics right now, governing is dominated by baseless hatred.  Party lines are drawn so thick, each treats the other like Bar Kamza, refusing to even let the other person get in the door.  Past hatreds and arguments are brought up again and again.  All this hatred works against the values of cooperation and kindness.  Certainly there are major issues at stake: budgets, fiscal cliffs, health care, and more.

But at the core, the story of Kamza and Bar Kamza teaches us to put aside baseless hatred and work together for the benefit of everyone.



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