Two Jews sit next to each other

 

                                                   Two Jews sit next to each other   by Rabbi Allen S Maller


A few days before Passover, two Jews found themselves sitting next to each other on a train. This was not unusual in 1933 in Poland. What was unusual was that one was a Progressive Rabbi from Krakow, and the other was a Hassidic Rabbi from Warsaw. At first they sat next to each other in silence. But after an hour they both felt a need to talk, so they started discussing the meaning and significance of the recent election of Adolph Hitler as chancellor or Germany. Then they moved on to the negative developments among the various political parties in Poland. From there they began to debate both Zionist and anti-Zionist politics in Poland and in the Land of Israel. Finally, they began arguing about religious issues between Orthodox and Reform Judaism. When their passions grew to strong they fell silent again.

Then the Progressive Rabbi said, “Our conversation over the last few hours reminds me of the four sons in the Passover Hagadah, At first, when we were talking about Anti-semitism in Germany we were largely in agreement and considered each other to be wise. When we discussed how to react to the political and economic challenges here in Poland; we frequently disagreed and saw each other as opponents. In debating the wisdom and chances of success of the Zionist movement, the gap between us grew larger, and we regarded each other as naïve simpletons. Finally, in arguing over religious issues we were so far apart that we could not even ask each other honest or intelligent questions.

The Hassidic Rabbi thought for a few minuets about what the Progressive Rabbi had said and then replied, “You are right and I thank you for a new insight into the nature of the four sons in the Hagadah. You also remind me of something my grandfather taught me when I and my younger brother had a big fight about Theodore Herzl. He pointed out that Psalm 133 says us that it is both good and pleasant for brothers to sit together. That it is pleasant is obvious; most families enjoy each others company. But why is it morally good? That is when we can sit together in spite of out differences, not by ignoring them or suppressing them; but by respecting them. And then my grandfather told me something his grandfather told him that came from the mouth of the great Tsadik David of Lelov: If you want to glue two pieces of wood together so they will become one, you must first smooth them both down. But then you have lost some of the wood. But if the bumps and humps in one fit the grooves and hollows in the other, and vice versa, then no cutting is necessary. You have a good fit and you do not loose any of the wood. This is why when brothers disagree strongly, it is good to find a way to be able to sit together.” Both rabbis smiled and shook hands.

(by Rabbi Allen S. Maller, inspired by FOR THE SAKE OF HEAVEN by Martin Buber p.269

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