On March 4, the day of the pro Trump rallies, Loretta Lynch called on people to fight (if need be) to the death against the legally and democratically elected President Donald Trump. In her words: “ordinary people … have bled, and yes, some of them died. …We have done this before. We can do this again.” In light of the “incensed army of liberals demanding no less than total war against President Trump,” as Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns referred to the liberal mobs in The New York Times, it is no surprise that Senate Democrats touted her rant as “words of inspiration.”
Narcissism and the “Basket of Deplorables”
We are living in a narcissistic era. This is why The New York Times raved about the book The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, stating that “The evidence Twenge and Campbell [authors] have compiled is compelling and appalling.” Since the late 1970s, people have been talking about “a culture of narcissism,” created by our growing self-absorption and egoism. Liberalism, which spread throughout the Western world as a backlash against the fascism that took over much of Europe and eventually led to the outbreak of World War II, became imbued with a sense of entitlement. Since liberals regard themselves as the guardians of free speech, they consider anyone outside their camp as an enemy to free speech and label such people fascists, racists, and a menace to society. It turns out that by delegitimizing any other view but their own, liberals have themselves become Nazis. Under such circumstances, it is easy to see how a former attorney general might rationalize that encouraging civilians to kill other civilians for their political views constitutes a legitimate statement, and not an incitement to murder.
Midrash Rabbah, Maimonides, Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer, and numerous other sources tell us that our nation began as a collection of outcasts who discovered in Abraham a teacher and a leader who taught them how to cover the hatred they encountered in their indigenous tribes with love. He taught them how to unite above their animosities and “trained” them in strengthening their bonds. Mishneh Torah (Chapter 1) describes how “thousands and tens of thousands assembled around Abraham, who planted this tenet [of unity above enmity] in their hearts.”
In this way, instead of turning their backs to one another and dispersing, “the people of the house of Abraham,” as Maimonides refers to the Hebrews, treated their egos in the same way an athlete treats his muscles. In order to grow stronger, he lifts incrementally heavier weights. Similarly, the ancient Hebrews treated their egos as “weights” they had to lift. The more their egos grew, the harder they had to work to strengthen their unity above their egos.
Eventually, our ancestors became the ultimate “society-builders,” fastening between them such tight bonds that they were able to commit to being “as one man with one heart.” And as soon as they made this commitment, they became the first and only nation in history to have been built solely on the basis of unity and love of others, rather than on geographical proximity or biological affinity.
An Exercise in Unity
In a world where nations are falling apart wherever we turn, and hatred is disintegrating countries from within and from without, only one type of connection can fuse society back into a stable and cohesive whole: the method of connection that our ancestors used—connecting above hatred by using the ego as a “weight” to strengthen our “social muscles.” Consequently, as soon as we became a nation we were tasked with being “a light unto nations.” Throughout the ages, Jews have pondered the meaning of this task. Today, I think it is evident that being “a light unto nations” means introducing this unique method of connection, which unites people where all other methods cannot.
There is, however, one snag: We ourselves have forgotten the meaning and purpose of connection. We connect only when and where it suits our selfish interests. We use the quality that our ancestors developed as a remedy for the world’s ills, to benefit ourselves at the expense of everyone else. People feel this even if they can’t articulate it. They feel that we Jews owe them something, that we are somehow to blame for their troubles. In other words, with their antisemitism, they are admitting that we have the key to their well-being, but we are not sharing it. This is why, as I said above, the choice to avert disaster lies squarely with us.
A Lesson Learned from Henry Ford
We need not teach the world the method that we ourselves have long forgotten. We must simply reach out, connect with our own brethren, and thereby serve as an example. This challenge is our “gym.” Our mutual hatred is the weight we have to toil to lift in order to strengthen our “muscles” of connection. This is the implementation of our task to be “a light unto nations.”
Rav Kook wrote that “The great rule about the war of views, when each view comes to contradict another, is that we need not contradict it, but rather build above it, and thereby ascend” (Letters of the Raiah). Similarly, the book Likutey Etzot (Assorted Counsels) writes, “The essence of peace is to connect two opposites. Hence, do not be alarmed if you see a person whose view is the complete opposite of yours and you think that you will never be able to make peace with him.” All we have to do in order to achieve peace is follow the advice of the wisest of all men, King Solomon: “Hate stirs strife, and love covers all crimes” (Prov 10:12).
The world awaits our example. Henry Ford, in one of the most anti-Semitic compositions ever written—The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem—wrote specifically that the world needs the example of the Jews. In his words: “Modern reformers, who are constructing model social systems, would do well to look into the social system under which the early Jews were organized.”
Yet, modern reformers will not be able to emulate that system unless we set the example for them. The Jews, who are so prominent on both sides of the political map in America, are in a unique position to change the course of American politics, American society, and the entire world. All we need in order to achieve this is to dare to move toward each other.
And the rest of the world can help us do just that. If the world understands the true task of the Jews and urges (or, God forbid, compels) us to do this, we will unite for sure. Precisely because we Jews have within us an innate sense that we are indebted to the world, we are also more attentive to criticism from the nations than any other nation. If the world tells the Jews: “Unite!” we will oblige. In fact, it is already telling us to do this. Antisemitism is the world’s way of telling us to unite. And we must hurry because the world will not “speak” to us in more pleasant or explicit ways, but in more aggressive ones.
Now that all other modes of closeness are collapsing and societies are disintegrating, only a method that lifts us over our hatred and unites us all above it can succeed. This method is our Jewish heritage and our duty is to bequeath this method to humanity.