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Monday, December 29, 2003

Charitable Anger

Meryl Yourish is a good friend with a heart of gold who I deeply admire and respect. She is currently involved in a cross-blog conversation with Michelle and Andrea Harris about helping the Iranians despite the fact that their government is an active sponsor of Hizbullah terror against Israel and their government has cold-heartedly rejected aid from Israel. In the discussion, Meryl blogged the following:

You cannot possibly understand our anger, Michele. You cannot possibly understand our anger, Andrea. And I say this knowing full well what stalwarts you are in rejecting all Jew-hatred. But you're not Jewish, and you don't get what it feels like. Lair and I feel it in our guts. Visceral hatred tends to bring out visceral anger in its targets, especially those of us who are not as enlightened as, say, Mike Sanders, who is a devout Jew. I'm certain he would donate to an Iranian relief fund. That's the kind of man he is. And that's also part of what Judaism is all about: Helping those who are less fortunate, even if they despise you. But we're not all on the same page. Some of us get overwhelmed by our anger, sometimes. We're only human.

I just wanted to clarify that giving between 10% and 20% of your after-tax income to charity is a fundamental tenant of Judaism. Once your are committed to that degree of giving, how it is allocated is a more complex matter with both practical and spiritual concerns taken into account.

In terms of anger and hatred, I don't think there is anything wrong with hating Nazi's or Hizbullah terrorists and their backers whose goal is to kill Jews, Americans and others. At the same time we need to increase our giving and compassion and make that our primary trait. How much the individuals of Nazi Germany, Iran or Syria are culpable for the collective actions of their country is a subject beyond the scope of this blog entry.

Whether you decide to give to an Iranian relief fund or not - with all the anger, rage and hatred in the world it might make sense to be vigilantly focused on increasing our compassion and understanding - our fellow citizens might be a good place to start.