Love Thy Neighbor, Hate Thyself

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Around two years ago, one of my siblings was struck in a hit and run accident.

They spent a day in the hospital before any of us family members even found out about it.

When we did, there were a few panicked hours as we tried to figure out what had happened to them, how they were doing, and how to get them the help and support they needed – this was all compounded by strict Covid regulations at the hospitals and the fact that they were living abroad.

All this took place a few hours before Shabbat. My parents were very involved in those few hours, calling people, making connections. And then, as sundown approached and my sibling’s injuries were deemed non-life threatening, they went off the grid for 25 hours.

I was left to continue carrying the logistical burden – many things still needed to be taken care of, my sibling was far from doing well.

They were just not dying.

This behavior accentuated an uncomfortable truth about religious parents:

If they’re doing it right, they love God more than they love you.

In my case, my parents also loved the Jewish people more than they loved us. That amorphous idea of a peoplehood that transcends culture or genetics as long as you mother is arbitrarily Jewish; the humanistic world view that de-humanizes most people and assesses everyone ranking in the spiritual spheres – and in their ability to be the next great Jewish leader, all of that was more important than the nine of us.

Many of us have experienced absent parents. Parents who seemingly prioritize other things on their day to day – work, their own distractions from life’s discomforts, their own unmet needs.

But when push comes to shove, the hospitalization of a child helps most people snap out of it, remember what’s really important. They drop their petty distractions and reconnect to their priorities.

It’s an insidious accomplishment of religion to make a parent act against their natural instincts. More impressive even than getting someone to sacrifice their own life, ala “kiddush hashem”; biologically we are hardwired to care for the survival of our offspring more than ourselves.

And you shall love your lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

From a compassionate standpoint, your own emotional health and wellbeing cannot be in a very good place if you love God, or the Jewish people, or even your children, more than yourself. You’re already off to a bad start.

There, I said it. Bite me. I’m kosher.

How much of a toll does it take on you to subdue your own inner morals and instincts for the sake of a “higher truth”? I’ve been there myself and it’s devastating, some of the deepest traumas I grapple with.

How do I experience my parents prioritizations?

I hate God, because they love Him more than they love me.

I hat the Jewish People, because they prioritize them over me.

People call that a self-hating Jew. But my self is not Jewish, it’s human. And I’m working on loving that human self.

I think people throwing around labels like that are overly identified with their Jewishness while simultaneously hating the world around them – and themselves.

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