On the evening of Valentine’s Day, the holiday of love, 200 people gathered to unite under the desire to disarm hate. Prominent members of different religious communities spoke in response to the hate they have encountered. They each spoke with power and conviction, pushing for unity across all traditions while remaining firm in their beliefs. The common thread across all speakers, was that we need to get to know one another. Without getting to know one another, common misconceptions are held which further drive apart communities.
Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers suggested that we get rid of the word hate and replace it with “H”. Rabbi Myers said (paraphrased), “violence is a manifestation of H speech. It is these words that grow into actions. In order to address H, we must remove the root.” In reflecting on these profound words, I must agree. I believe the root of the problem is the heart. I am reminded of a verse from the Hebrew Bible, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart” (Proverbs 27:19). It is our heart that gives rise to thoughts, thoughts to words, and words to action.
So how can we go about changing our hearts? Yes, I agree that one of the ways to change our heart is to get to know one another, but I believe the root is a bit deeper. In order to remove H, we must come to the realization that as humans, we all have the same divine nature or essence that dwells within us. By getting to know one another, we can better know the heart of God and his love for all creation.
With so much darkness in the world, it is hard to imagine a world where this could be a reality. In my realist and perhaps pessimistic way of thinking, I don’t see H going away any time soon. So how are we to respond to hate? Quoting from my own tradition, Jesus said “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!... If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?” (Mt. 5:43-44,46-47)