Forgiveness-Political Differences

When a Loved One’s Politics Feels Like a Betrayal

In civil engagement, Judaism offers a way forward.

My grandfather, who is almost 90, and I have held divergent political views for as long as I can remember. It was something we used to joke about. But now that I have kids, it no longer feels like a laughing matter. I worry that my kids’ futures are at stake, largely because of a political agenda that he supports. And that’s created a rift, albeit a small one, between us.

As the High Holidays approach, how can I let go of the hurt and betrayal I feel when I think about — or hear him talk about — his political views?

As harmful and painful your grandfather’s political positions may be for your children to hear and experience, the most important lesson you can give your children in this fractured era is the idea that civil, respectful debate is the greatest strength and asset we have as a community and as a country.

Jewish tradition has given the world a model of sincere individuals conducting heated debates leshem shamayim — for the sake of heaven. Moreover, our Talmud tells us that when debate is stifled, the entire community suffers a much greater loss, and the Torah itself loses out.

We are a people of “arguing with God” (one explanation for the name Israel), and our leaders from Abraham to the Woman from Shunam, have demonstrated that even a perfect God, or a righteous prophet (Elisha), must be open to respectful debate. So with the blessing of our Tradition, engage with your grandfather as machloket leshem shamayim — quarrel for the sake of heaven. The stakes are higher than ever; our differing opinions are more caustic than ever; and, therefore, open, civil debate is more important than ever.

Rabbi Asher Lopatin is the former president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah rabbinical school. He is the founder and spiritual leader of a new Modern Orthodox congregation in Detroit, Kehillat Etz Chayim, and is the founder of the new non-profit organization, The Detroit National Center for Civil Discourse.

Discover More

After ‘I’m Sorry,’ the Real Work Begins

The process of asking for forgiveness doesn’t end with making a heartfelt apology, Maimonides made clear.

Learning To Forgive … Ourselves

The Torah places a high value on self-love. That means practicing self-forgiveness, too.

When a Congregation Makes You Feel Like You Don’t Fit In

On forgiving (or not) a spiritual community that has judged you unfairly.  

Yom Kippur 2020

Yom Kippur begins at sunset on Sunday, September 27 and ends at sundown on Monday, September 28, 2020.

Must-Know Yom Kippur Words and Phrases

Key vocabulary for the Jewish Day of Atonement.

What is Elul?

The month prior to the Jewish new year is a time of introspection and personal stock-taking.

The Benefits of Fasting on Yom Kippur

Don't believe in God? In reward and punishment? The obligations of Jewish law? Here's why you should fast anyway.