Seeing beyond our differences

25 January 2017 Written by  Rabbi Eric Tokajer
This week I had a unique experience that I am hoping to have many more times in the future. For me along with most of my friends, from all over the spectrum of politics and religion, these last few weeks have a been whirlwind of emotional overload. Everywhere I looked, and everything I heard of seemed to be a Facebook message, tweet, television program or commercial firmly taking one position while violently attacking the position that is the polar opposite.

After reaching the point where I had reached my limit I was introduced to a friend of a friend. Our introduction was made by someone I have known for a few years who I met as a result of her loss of a loved one. We have since that time corresponded about all kinds of things from family stuff, Scriptures and even politics. We built a relationship based upon love that allowed for each of us to have our own opinions without requiring either to compromise their beliefs in order to be friends.

My friend knows me well enough to know that the person she was introducing me to stands a long ways from me on the pendulum of beliefs. The woman she was introducing me to is a liberal, and I am a conservative. Under normal less “eventful” conditions an introduction of this kind would have seemed normal as people introduce me to their friends all the time, after all, I am a rabbi. However, the timing of this introduction was unusual.

My newly introduced “friend” was posting Facebook posts strongly proclaiming positions that I not only didn’t agree with but that I was posting posts directly contradicting those posts. She was posting for everything I was posting against and yet for some reason my friend felt it was the time to connect her two friends with diametrically opposing views. Because of my love and respect for my friend, I welcomed the introduction.

This began a conversation that lasted hours, about a difficult real world topic with the most agreeable person I have ever disagreed with. If everyone could debate important issues with the respect I was shown we could have the civil society we always talk about being. While we never did achieve full agreement we did find mutual ground in places where we both could stand back to back with one another to work together to bring change.

I cannot express how thankful I am to my friend for introducing me to my new friend. Somehow she saw beyond our differences to our hearts something I hope we can all learn to do.

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