To the liberal orthodox Jews. The ones who don’t fit in because you feel judged when you open your mouth about the things you care about.
To the liberal Jews, orthodox or not. The ones who open your mouths and feel ostracized, attacked by anyone with a kippah or a tiechel. Who feel a strong attachment to your people but can’t help but feel you’re living another life, in another world.
To the peace-loving Jews, the ones who want to find a way to express what’s deep inside of you but who are afraid you’re hurting those nearby when you do.
You are not alone.
You are needed.
You are heard.
The world right now, it creates illusions. Illusions where the loudest people seem to be the ones in the majority, where the angry people, the trolls, seem to be in control. But that’s just what they want you to think, don’t you see?
The tools of the internet are being hacked. Those with big voices seem large. Like puffer fish, they expand their bodies to scare their foes. But they’re just a bubble waiting to be popped. An illusion. A lie.
Social media has done this to the world, given the puffer fish more air. Given the people who crave control over others, over you, the tools by which to shame and humiliate you for speaking your mind.
Too often I’ve seen it. You quieted Jews. Hurt, maligned. You either silence yourself or you return the favor, become bitter yourself, angry yourself. They’re the same thing, though. A reflection of an inner feeling of powerlessness. A need to feel back in control, either by retreating inwards or by exploding outwards. Neither assertive, neither living a life as it’s mean to be led. A voice as it’s meant to be used.
But that doesn’t mean you’re to blame when you get quiet or loud. That’s what they want you to think. They look around and they see a world where everyone who disagrees with them is either non-existant or loudly venting, and they say to themselves, “See! The only ones who disagree with us are angry! The rest don’t even exist.”
What they don’t realize is that this is the world they’ve built themselves, a creation of their own. By silencing you, by attacking you, by maligning you, they’ve built a world that is even more illusory than the puffer fish within them. They want you to think you’re alone because that’s the only way they can have a measure of control over a world that otherwise wouldn’t make sense to them.
So they’re trying to silence you. Or to anger you. Either way, the goal is control.
Is to speak.
Not in anger, in venting. But with assertiveness, with strength that comes from inside. Strength that is not reactionary but built up from within.
You must. Speak. You must.
Because here is what they don’t want to acknowledge. Here is what they don’t want to see. And what they’re trying to hide you from:
You are not alone.
You are among many.
If you are silenced, there are others silenced.
If you are yelling, frustrated, angry, you are like so many others. But when our animal souls are in control, we are always divided, and so your anger blocks you from truly building unity with those you agree with. You are too focused on them, on the puffer fish, because a part of you believes they truly are as big as they appear to be.
You are not alone. You are strong. You deserve to be heard.
The problem is that in a world where a myth has been created about what it means to be an orthodox Jew, a religious Jew (as if politics could determine our religious standing), we all fall into that myth. Even the ones who identify as orthodox, there’s a part of them that feels like they’re being rebels, being bad. But that’s not the case. You’re just doing what a good Jew does, a good soul does, a good vessel of God does.
You are opening your mouth to speak about what you care about.
You are not an outsider. You are just a target. You are the insecurity in others. You are the aching conscionse within us all that we want to ignore. The yetzer tov. The voice of reason.
That is what you are because that is what we all are. The conservative, the liberal, the unaffiliated, the orthodox, the reform, the secular.
We are one body. And they, those who want to cut you off are like a man who thinks he is somehow healthier cutting off his own limb than trying to understand why it aches. We all have a role to play. One that matters for the eternality of our people. One in which the disagreeing voices are the vessel by which we all arrive at Moshiach.
It is this idea that to disagree about fundamental issues somehow makes someone less Jewish that has infected this body, this conversation. They’ve turned this from a conversation about ideas into a conversation about who does and doesn’t belong. When they spit at you online, saying, “Liberals [insert hateful comment here],” they are infected with this, infected with this idea that your identity makes you less-than, lower-than.
Speak. Speak. Speak.
Your voice is needed. Your silence is an acceptance of their cutting you off. Your anger is the fuel they need to keep trying.
Because you are here, because you matter. Because there are others like you, and the more you speak from a place of strength, the more they will gravitate to you. You will build something, a true thing, a real thing. A community that must be heard within the Jewish world for us all to remain healthy. A community that is just as Jewish, just as important, just as full of verve and life and truth as any other.
With each word you speak, a new Jewish world gets injected with a new vitality, a new life. With each word you speak, Moshiach is closer to arriving. With each word you speak, you make us all healthier, stronger, because you are a limb reconnecting to the body.