Published in the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury-News and the North Jersey Herald-News during Passover 1997
ON PASSOVER AND PEACE
by Lionel Traubman
I am a pediatric dentist. I know something about "root cause."
If a 2-year-old child has cavities everywhere, I look at his or her
relationship to sweet food and drinks. If my young patients are personally
troubled, I usually see troubled relationships at home or school. When my
nurses and I need to resolve how we work together, we first sit down and
carefully listen to one another.
"Shema, hear," Judaism instructs us. Health and survival itself,
experience tells us, depends on relationships.
When I look for answers to "impossible" problems with "irreconcilable"
differences, like Israeli-Arab conflicts, I go deeper -- to religion, to
the root source of my tradition of wisdom.
If we accept Abraham`s profound insight that all is one,
then we know that we are neighbors forever -- all the nations, races,
religions, species. There is no independent survival any more. And in my
life of working with others, especially adversaries, nothing replaces
We Jews and Arabs have a shared history, homeland and destiny. Yet we do
not know each other. Rarely have we had meals or serious conversations together.
But there are some Jews and Arabs -- not enough -- who are beginning to get
together with their "enemies." They talk in earnest and truly get to know
one another, in Israel and also in America. They risk and create new
models in dialogue, redefining what is possible. They prove that
relationships make the difference.
Dr. Andrew Bard Schmookler, a Jew and a leading intellectual integrator of
the 20th century, is concerned about the way we`ve been talking to each
other in half-truths, shouting across a cultural chasm,
perpetuating contempt for each other in a cultural war. He says we must
challenge ourselves to talk to each other across the chasm. What can you
teach me? What can I learn from you?
Schmookler implores all sides to listen more carefully and seek the truth
about the other`s life experiences and perceptions. Together we can
then seek a higher level of wisdom that brings together different pieces of
the whole truth. We will then discover a better and more compelling way
of living in respect and partnership.
At this Passover celebration of freedom, perhaps more than ever, we will
feel the urgency to finally end the military occupation of another, fine people, and the terrorist
killings of innocent civilians. This culture of war, fear, revenge and
hopelessness is bondage for all .
"What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow men. The rest is
merely commentary." This is the wisdom of Rabbi Hillel 2.000 years
ago, when asked about the essence of Torah itself. To this the beloved
Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph later instructed us, simply, "Love they
neighbor as thyself."
Now, in the 20th century, with its own political realities, Rabbi Abraham
Isaac Kook has given us a wonderful contemporary Kabbalah wisdom relevant
to the "expanded identification" we all need to embody to bring the peace
process to life forever. This brilliant scholar and mystic is remembered for his ability to bring
together battling religious and social factions, making harmony out of
seemingly irreconcilable differences. Born in 1865, he was
Chief Rabbi of Palestine until his death in 1935. He has been called
"Shepherd of Jerusalem."
Rabbi Kook`s "Song of
Songs" is an appeal for community, for inclusive citizens. It
concludes, "There is one who ascends with all these songs in unison -- the
song of the soul, the song of the nation, the song of humanity, the song
of the cosmos -- resounding together, blending in harmony, circulating the
sap of life, the sound of holy joy."
If we, and all humankind, allow Jewish wisdom to touch our minds and
hearts, it can change us and give us the courage to approach our
relationships differently and better. We can live our lives knowing that
there is no individual survival. "We" means those living at our
side, our Arab neighbors, with their own ancient traditions and wisdom. We
must now have the courage to see them and meet them as people. What can I
learn from you? What can we create together?
We have returned to the land of Israel. But spiritually we are not quite
yet out of the wilderness. At Passover, it is well to recall how our
courage and passion for freedom launched us out of Egypt, and how we were
carried as "on eagles` wings" to freedom, for the sole purpose of being "a
kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." Priests, of course, bring people
closer to the highest, the profound, God. We can do that. We can be an
inspiration to the whole planet.
This Passover, let us determine to build bridges of understanding across
personal and cultural chasms, turning strangers into neighbors, enemies
into partners, finally freeing ourselves from the slavery and great costs of
alienation. What is ancient and profound in Judaism is, after all, what
really works in everyday life.
Lionel Traubman, three years after publishing this article, in August 2000 retired from his
practice of Dentistry for Infants and Children in San Francisco. He is a
former Director of the San Francisco Dental Society, and was regional
alumni President of Alpha Omega Jewish dental fraternity. Dr. Traubman
was Editor of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and of the
California Society of Dentistry for Children. He wrote and published THE
ORECKOVSKY FAMILY: FROM RUSSIA TO AMERICA, depicting his pioneer ancestors`
immigration following the first pogroms of the early 1880s. The book
resides in 100 libraries in North America and Europe. Sincer the early 1980s with Beyond War, he and
his wife, Libby, devoted themselves to successful Russian-American then
Jewish-Palestinian dialogue, at home and overseas. They reside in San
Mateo, California. Their family homepage is at http://traubman.igc.org/.
Len and Libby Traubman
1448 Cedarwood Drive, San Mateo, CA 94403
Voice: (650) 574-8303 -- Fax: (650) 573-1217
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