I grew up in a “conservative” home where we kept kosher in the house, and ate treif out. We went to temple on Saturday morning and to the beach or the mall on Saturday afternoon. Like many a reformed smoker, when I became Shomer Shabbat I quickly became intolerant of that which I left behind. As I moved up the ranks of orthodoxy, becoming more careful in my mitzvah observance, I was becoming intolerant of those who were less observant.
I would silently question: Why does he dress like that in shul? Why doesn’t he go to minyan? Why doesn’t she cover her hair? Like the quintessentially egocentric highway driver, everyone else was either driving too slow or too fast, only I was driving at the right speed!
With the passage of time, added maturity, a little wisdom, and some hard life experiences I’ve come to see how foolish I was. We have absolutely no idea of either the entire picture of person’s life or what metric G-d uses to judge us.
The glimpse we see of other people is merely a few frames of a multi-million-frame movie. And even were we to view the whole movie we’d have no idea how to “review” it.
Moving to Israel has crystallized this outlook even more. Here, people are very neatly divided up as either “Chilonim” (non-religious) or “Daatiim” (religious). But there’s nothing “neat” about it. Here are just a few examples:
– It’s not uncommon to see a scantily clad women sitting on a bus reading from a well-worn sefer tehillim with kavanah that you’d expect from the greatest sage.
– When my wife recently offered my, apparently, chiloni workers some milk for their coffee they said they can’t have any because they are “basari” (fleishig).
– My ulpan teacher knows tanach better than the vast majority of FFB yeshiva kids in America!
Of course more fundamentally, we have no idea what kind of merit accrues to these “chilonim” for living here, building this miraculous country, and risking their lives to defend us all.
In our shul this past Friday after mincha we said tehillim as a refuah for Ariel Sharon. One person walked out and several people gave the Rabbi a really hard time about it. Even though the rabbi was strongly against the disengagement from Gaza, he was unapologetic. First he said, Sharon is a Jew and we have an obligation to pray for him. Then he added that Sharon, this Chiloni head of state, has “Z’chuyot Ein Kamohu”. (He has merits like no one else.)
I think we need to treat everyone as if he has Z’chuyot Ein Kamohu and leave it to G-d to do the actual tally.
Originally Posted on January 11, 2006