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Feel Deeply, Act Kindly
Tue, 10/01/2013 - 20:00
Rabbi David Wolpe
Rabbi David Wolpe

Everyone decries extremism but it is hard to turn out crowds for moderation. The satiric Czech novelist Jaroslav Hasek once started a political movement called “The Party of Moderate Progress Within the Bounds of the Law.” If you’ve never heard of it, that’s because it never quite picked up steam.

Passion moves us to action yet makes a poor partner to wisdom. Extremism in all its forms is a more vital and exciting alternative, even if its effects are dire. William James began his essay “The Moral Equivalent to War” as follows: “The war against war is going to be no holiday excursion or camping party. The military feelings are too deeply grounded to abdicate their place among our ideals until better substitutes are offered than the glory and shame that come to nations as well as to individuals.”

Religion is both an offender and an aid in the battle of human passions. Faith engages emotions, at times thoughtlessly. Yet Judaism counsels humility, so we know that our fervor may be misguided; reminds us of our imperfections, lest we trust our own conclusions too much; and counsels goodness, so that in our zeal we do not ignore the most important consideration, the infinite worth of others. Feel deeply and act kindly — not easy but essential.

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe.

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Darn it. He's not supposed to be funnier than me too,
on top of everything else?
He's hysterical.

I am defeated.

Dear Rabbi Wolpe,
Your comments and advice could not come a better historical time in America.I, for one, have always been passionate in my beliefs and how I express them. I have strived for understanding and compassion for persons with apposing views. For the first time in over 40 years, I am finding responses to my postings troubling at the least and unacceptable at best. I ask myself---why is this occurring,today. The only answer I can think of is how our country has become divided in recent years. We are divided over PPACA--Parent Protection and Affordable Care Act. We were divided over bombing Syria, even in the Jewish community, just to name a few issues which divide us today.
For all of the above, your words could not have come at a better time

I find extremest to be most dangerous in Politics and Religion, Many have lost their way following a Leader who is fanatical in his/her extreme ideals, in lack of a better term. To stand for what you believe is one thing , but many use that as an excuse for their extreme ideology. Fervor and belief in what is right is not extremism. There is a line that many cross on the road to their extreme beliefs. That is when civilization is at risk...That is when people can lose, and have lost their lives. Listening to and getting caught up in an orator that whips them into a frenzy and that they follow blindly without thinking if what and who they are following is wrong. If they do come to that realization at some point , it may be too late to withdraw and stand up for what is right.

This article really spoke to me, I work on dealing with this issue everyday. Thank you
So much.

Well written Rabbi!