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Fitting A Square Peg In A Round Hole

Did you ever try to fit a square peg in a round hole?  Let me tell you something, it’s not easy, though it can be done.  What will happen is that there will be gaps on all 4 sides. Yet that is precisely what we try to do to people, in education, religion, and politics.  We attempt to force a unique individual into a universal mold.  And it just doesn’t work. To illustrate, just think about the exactness of the route of a rocket trying to reenter the earth’s atmosphere.  If the trajectory of reentry is just a little off, the rocket will bounce off the atmosphere and be lost in space.  The same is true for people.  Sometimes they understand the overall picture, but the details are what get them lost, similarly to not seeing the forest for the trees.  Everybody has a unique way to learn and when we try to squeeze them into a mold instead of teaching to the person, a lot of time is wasted.  Furthermore, the person is made to feel inadequate and unable to learn.  
     The same thing can be said regarding politics.  While overall, a person may match up with a particular political party, that same person will have views that put him or her into a different category.   For example, one may be for limited government and at the same time be pro social programs funded by the government. Others want taxes lowered and more government programs.  The bottom line is that people are complex.
     Judaism is a prime example of not fitting in the box.  Most Jews are not concerned with philosophical stances about the different forms of Judaism.  To most, one is either Jewish or one is not.  The amount of religious observance is what will pigeon-hole the adherent, whereas I would argue, it is one’s hashkafa-- religious philosophy -- which should be the basis of what kind of Jew one is.  The problem is that when we see a person we have put into a specific box acting in a way we deem to be outside that box, we call that person inconsistent or contradictory.  But most people do not neatly fit into the hole we have put them into.    What’s worse is when someone else says, “if you do” x,” then you are not really “y.”  The person being pigeonholed would have the right to ask, “Who died and left him/her in charge?”  People, in general, are not consistent.  What we have to do is to develop an ability to judge people individually and favorably.  Even though their actions may not always fit into the box that we inserted them into, it is not their fault, it is ours for creating the box.    We need to engage in meaningful conversation where we attempt to truly understand the other and not try to show them the folly of their ways.  Life is not a process of “my way or the highway,” which, I believe is why the Rabbis have instructed  us that we should learn from every person, not just the ones that we agree with.   

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