Interfaith: Even when we disagree, we should respect others – VC Star

Posted By on November 19, 2020

Rabbi Michael Barclay, Special to Ventura County Star Published 10:00 a.m. PT Nov. 14, 2020

There is a Jewish teaching that when Pharaohs soldiers were drowning in the sea, the angels started to rejoice, but were silenced by God who remonstrated them: the work of My hands is drowning and you want to sing songs?" (Midrash Megillah 10b).

This teaching of how we treat our opponents and about rejoicing inappropriately in victory is especially important in the challenging times of the last weeks and months. What is really our goal in any conflict, and how do we achieve that goal?

Rabbi Michael Barclay(Photo: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

In Judaism, we try to avoid war whenever possible. As famously said by Golda Meir, We dont want wars, even when we win." It is clear throughout the Bible and Talmud that conflict should never be taken on for personal glory, poweror victory, but only for spiritual purposes to make the world a better place.

This doesnt mean we dont fight when necessary, and in fact we are obligated to fight with all our passion for causes that we believe righteous. We must constantly fight evil actions and pursue justice(Deuteronomy16:20), but we fight to achieve a true peace, not a personal victory over a perceived enemy.

Moreover, it is important to never view our opponent as evil." We may feel he is misguided, wrongor even that his actions are evil; but we can never judge another person in that way. We may judge anothers actions, but no human being is so wise so enlightened, that her or shehas the right to castigate another individual as evil. This is a decision that is only in the hands of God.

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And since God is infinite, no individual, no religion,and no political party has the exclusive monopoly on understanding what is right and righteous. We all need to work together in order to understand that infinite deity.

Since our ultimate goal is understanding and peace, then it is through the conflict as illustrated repeatedly through the Talmud, including Bava Metzia 84a that we begin to understand more than our own point of view.

We must not just tolerate our opponents; but accept them, understand their point of view especially when we believe they are deeply mistaken, and grow as spiritual beings in the process. Thou shall nothate thy brother in thy heart (Talmud, Arachin 16b) is an important dictate. We can hate and fight the actions, but must avoid at all costs hating the individual person.

It is this teaching that is so important in these timesand seems to have been so forgotten, especially since the election. Both political parties believe they have the way;" and all too often consider the other side evil for the last 12 years or more. This attitude will never lead to peace in our nation.

From a spiritual perspective, we are required to be politically active and to be champions for the causes, beliefsand politics that we are passionate about. But we must stop vilifying those on the opposite side of the aisle.

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If we follow the ways taught by our sages, it is imperative that we respect the individuals even and especially when we disagree. The goal of peace will never be served by viewing our opponents as evil," but only through respect in all forms of conflict.

May we all be blessed to see our lives, and our nation, come together in peace as we hear and respect our opponents;transforming those we consider enemies into friends that we respectfully disagree with. And may we stop and never again hate any brother or sister in our heart.

Rabbi Michael Barclay is the spiritual leader of Temple Ner Simcha and can be reached directly at He is a member of the Conejo Valley Interfaith Association, which meets monthly and welcomes clergy and representatives of all religious faiths.

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Interfaith: Even when we disagree, we should respect others - VC Star

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