In an age of polarization, it is useful to remember how often great spirits have avoided the bitterness that poisons our discourse.
“With malice toward none with charity toward all.” Lincoln avoided the recriminations one might have expected in the wake of a savage civil war. The same majestic spirit was apparent in Nelson Mandela’s demeanor after his release: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” In the Torah, we read of Moses‘ self-possession in the face of others who seemingly usurp his role by suddenly acting as prophets. Rather than being jealous or angry, Moses takes the news calmly, simply wishing that more of God’s children would be prophets.
Judaism teaches us the art of overcoming: overcoming anger, bitterness, hateful words toward others. In an age that encourages anger we can learn enlarge our souls, calm our spirits, and rise above.
Rabbi David Wolpe’s musings are shared in My Jewish Learning’s Shabbat newsletter, Recharge, a weekly collection of readings to refresh your soul. Sign up to receive the newsletter.