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Ki Tovo: Overcoming Political Polarisation

Political polarization seems to be gaining momentum across the globe. The dialogue is becoming increasingly nasty and heated. The positions are becoming more entrenched. Israel is no different. Perhaps it is to an even greater extent. As the saying goes, “the Jews do it better”. The fault lines are certainly historic. Not much has changed. It is: Jew vs Arab; religious vs secular; rich vs poor. We are an ancient people who have returned to our historic land. Our progress so far has certainly been miraculous by all counts. Yet we are still in the process of rebuilding our country. We are still struggling to discover an equilibrium with which to deal with our fundamental differences. Again I would like to share a perspective from the Baal Shem Tov. The Talmud says “A man can examine all Negaim (diseased patches) except for his own”. (Negaim 2:5). The simple inference is that human beings can only truly appreciate other people’s weaknesses, not their own. The natural bias towards ourselves is too difficult to overcome. The Ball Shem Tov reveals a deeper layer. In a play on the words he explains that the reason one sees another persons weakness, is only due to fact that the observer is projecting that identical fault. This is analogous to a mirror which reflects back the identical image that is projected onto it. Our sages teach us “Who is the wise one? He who learns from all men”. (Avot 4:1). The reason why we are exposed to other people’s faults is because G-d through his kindness is teaching us a lesson in how to become a better person. For only in discovering the weakness in others will we fully appreciate the faults within ourselves. It is the ability to fully acknowledge a weakness and correct it that is the path to achieving greatness. Even more so then to fully develop a strength. We can look outside of us and blame this leader or that community. However this will only lead to more frustration and anger. Or we can direct our focus inwards, reconnect with reality and begin to make a change in areas where we have full control. By doing so we will all begin to project a very different light onto the community and society which we inhabit.

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