A student of mine told me that thirty years ago, a sheikh from the extremist Palestinian Hamas movement predicted that in 2022, between the month of Ramadan and the month of June, Israel will be destroyed. He asked if I thought there was a chance that this could happen. I told him he can sleep quietly because it won’t, not now. However, if we continue to conduct ourselves as we have been so far, we will not exist for long. The nations voted to establish a Jewish state because deep down, they await and long for our spiritual awakening—to set an example of brotherly love and mutual responsibility. If we live up to their dream, they will rally behind us, including Hamas. If we disappoint them, they will revoke Israel.
Since the inception of our nation, we have been obligated to serve as “a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those who dwell in darkness from the prison” (Isaiah 42:6-7). We have never been relieved from duty, and the fact that the nations hold us to a higher standard proves that they still expect us to lead by example.
It is no coincidence that the two dominant religions—Christianity and Islam—emerged from Judaism. However, because the example we currently give is one of division and hatred, this is the treatment we get from the world. If we injected a different spirit into the world, the world would be different, and so would the way the world treats the Jews in general, and Israel in particular.
This is why it is written in The Book of Zohar (Aharei Mot) that after Israel make peace among themselves, “By your merit, there will be peace in the world.” This is also why Rav Kook wrote around the time of World War I, “If we were ruined and the world was ruined with us through unfounded hatred, we will be rebuilt and the world will be rebuilt with us through unfounded love.”
It follows that the world will not like us, or even accept us as long as we do not like one another. However, if we do accept and like one another, the world will embrace us and support us because we will be setting the example it expects to see from us.
Our internal cohesion or lack thereof determines everything that happens, not only among Jews, but in general. Everyone senses this but us. You can often hear antisemites blaming Jews for all the problems in the world. This is a testimony to the fact that they see us as responsible for the well-being of the world. And they are right, since through our own unity or disunity we make the world choose unity or division. If humanity chose unity, there would be no problems anywhere. Since it chooses division, there is no solution to any of our problems, and more of them keep piling up.
Whatever we are, shines on the world. If we are “a light to the nations,” the world shines with us. If we are “a darkness to the nations,” the world darkens with us and hates us for it.
It is all a question of our internal unity. We need not please or appease anyone; we should only try to—after two millennia of hatred and division—love one another, as one man with one heart, just as we were at the moment of the birth of our nation.
This is the solution to the problems of the world, and to the grievances that the world has against us. This is why when seeking solutions to America’s social problems, the most notorious antisemite in American history, Henry Ford, founder of the auto company, recommended looking into the ancient Jewish society, before it fell into unfounded hatred: “Modern reformers, who are constructing model social systems, … would do well to look into the social system under which the early Jews were organized.”
Indeed, the world waits for Israel.
A Palestinian burns an Israeli flag during a rally to show solidarity with al-Aqsa mosque, in Gaza City October 17, 2014. (Reuters)
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