Parshat Naso: Overcoming Our Natural Prejudice
More than 350 cities across the USA have erupted in protest and violence after George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man, was killed by a white police officer. This brutal death has reawakened deep anger and hate among the black community and rekindled the age-long struggle for racial justice in America.
To be clear, this issue is highly complex and no easy solutions are possible.
However, in attempting to solve any problem, one must first identify and acknowledge its root cause. Only then can genuine healing begin.
In a fascinating talk on the subject of the ‘Ten Commandments’ the Lubavitcher Rebbe offered a most illuminating insight.
The Rebbe explained that the words engraved on the two tablets can be read both in a vertical and horizontal order. i.e. there is an intrinsic connection between commandments one and six, two and seven and so on.
This simple teaching has a profound impact on our understanding of morality.
Any moral or ethical code would have no intrinsic value without a sacred absolute which transcends it.
So long as human beings are the authors over what constitutes ‘good’ and ‘evil’, there will inevitably be conflict over its interpretation and application.
Human nature with all its strengths has a universal absolute weakness. It is naturally subconsciously bias towards itself. Nothing in the world can change this reality.
The reason we have a natural positive bias towards ourselves and people similar to us, is because at our core lies the impulse of ‘self preservation’. Consequently, any entity that is strange to us can be instinctively perceived as a possible threat.
The only way we can overcome this fear is by fully acknowledging what is written in the biblical narrative, “In the image of G-d he created him (man)”.
If each and every human being was created in the image of G-d, then there must be an underlying spirit which unifies all the myriad parts.
A monotheistic faith is the only way to ensure an approach to life that is guided by the belief that every individual is an intrinsic part of ‘one’ whole, and should not be perceived as a threat.
Following the Crown Heights riots in 1991, the Rebbe reiterated this point, in his message to New York City’s Mayor David Dinkins, by saying “it is one side and one people”.
Let’s be honest. We are all guilty of negative bias and prejudice.
The only way to overcome this, is by allowing our inherent faith in the oneness of G-d and the unity of mankind to become part of our everyday life.