Shemini: Holier Than Thou. How To Handle Ethical Conflicts With Others



How do we handle moral/religious differences with others … be they our parents or children, be they our husbands or our wives, be they our neighbors or friends? What do we do when someone close to us is not living up to our moral/ethical standards? How do we embrace that person without compromising the integrity of our own beliefs? In truth, these questions apply to any conflict, whether moral or religious, whether involving a friend or stranger, whether involving communal or global issues.

They are surely relevant to the present upheavals in the Middle East, and the general confrontation between Islam and the West – a major part of which concerns the coexistence and balance between faith and modernity, religious passion and tolerance, repression and even violence in the name of G-d. The bottom-line is: Where do we draw the line? What should be the limits of our tolerance? Or should we have none? This sermon examines several different stories across the religious spectrum – and the lesson of this week’s Torah reading – to ask (and answer) some hard questions about religious selfishness and to define true religious experience.

For the greatest religious experience is turning the human into the divine, not the other way around. To achieve such a religious experience requires going beyond our narcissistic ego and rejecting its selfish desires. It requires transcending even our “religious ego” and going beyond human definitions of good behavior. It requires recognizing that our object is to go from good to better, from good to G-d.


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