It’s becoming more and more difficult to follow social media. The war of words over the presidential election and its aftermath has not abated. I would venture to say 80% of my friends on FB are more inclined to talk politics than share recent photos of themselves, their family or a most recent vacation. It’s not that I’m disinterested in politics, rather I have become fatigued by the constant chatter, the adamancy and the all too often nastiness. Friends have blocked friends. Feelings are hurt. And certain conversations are no longer permitted. I share with you a Talmudic story about Hillel, one of Judaism’s greatest teachers in the hope that we can return to a more respectful way of addressing one another:
The Talmud tells the story of the sage Hillel, and of a man who wagered with his friend that he could anger the great scholar. So the protagonist of the story (perhaps more accurately described as the antagonist) went and stood outside the bathhouse on the eve of Yom Kippur, as Hillel was busy with preparations for the holiday. He called out “who here is Hillel?” Then, when the sage emerged, he asked him an extremely silly and non-urgent question.
Hillel answered the man with great patience. The fellow then permitted the sage to return to the bathhouse, and presumably remove half his clothing, before calling him out a second time for a similar purpose – and again, Hillel was patient in the extreme, and answered him gently.
This went on yet a third time, at which point the man confessed to Hillel that he had now lost a considerable sum for failing to arouse the leader’s ire. Hillel responded that it was better that fortunes should be lost than that Hillel should become angry!
This is the holiness we seek. Not a person who is withdrawn from the world, but someone who achieves perfection both in his interaction with God, and in his interaction with his fellow man. May we merit to follow in Hillel’s footsteps!
All good things,
Rabbi James S. Glazier