No emperor on earth has ever defeated us, but when we forgot that all Jews are responsible for one another, we sometimes defeated ourselves. Now, another such defeat is within sight.
Following the removal of the metal detectors from the entrances to Temple Mount, Rami Hamdallah, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, said, “Our nation showed that through steadfastness, national unity, and peaceful struggle, Jerusalem will remain our eternal capital city, and the crown of the identity uniting us.”
All over the Arab world, nations are uniting against what Jordan’s King, Abdullah II, called the “Judaization of holy sites” in Jerusalem. In downtown Amman, the crowd called on the Arab and Islamic worlds to unify in support of Islam’s third holiest site. In Turkey, protests were held in Ankara and Istanbul in solidarity with Al-Aqsa. Even in Kuala Lumpur, thousands of Malaysian Muslims participated Friday in a demonstration to “save Al-Aqsa,” according to al-Jazeeranet.
Just this Tuesday, we commemorated the ruin of both Temples on the 9th of Av. Former Chief Rabbi of the UK, Lord Jonathan Sacks, said in a video he posted in memory of the ruin of the Temple: “We are ferocious arguers and that’s part of our strength. But, when it allows us to split apart, then it becomes terribly dangerous. Because no emperor on earth has ever been able to defeat us, but we have on occasion been able to defeat ourselves. …Remember the ultimate basis of Jewish peoplehood. All Jews are responsible for one another.”
These days, it seems we have completely forgotten this ultimate basis. It is therefore no surprise that there are clear indications that yet another defeat is approaching. And once again, it is because of our hatred for each other.
Why is it that the Arabs can unite and we cannot? What makes us loathe each other so profoundly that many of us prefer to ally with our enemies rather than so much as talk to another Jew who holds a different view?
Peace between Two Opposites
Rabbi Sacks said that arguing is “part of our strength.” But arguing is more than that. Our entire peoplehood was based on arguments that we conquered with love. King Solomon wrote (Proverbs, 12:10), “Hate stirs strife, and love covers all crimes.” The Book of Zohar writes (Aharei Mot) that when the friends “sit together, first they seem like men at war, wishing to kill one another. Then, they return to being in brotherly love.” “And,” continues The Zohar, “by your merit, there will be peace in the world.”
The book Likutey Etzot (Assorted Counsels) adds another aspect to connection that transcends disputes: “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. Also, when you see two people who are completely opposite to each other, do not say that it is impossible to make peace between them. On the contrary, the essence of peace is to try to make peace [above] two opposites.”
Indeed, we Jews were declared a nation only when we committed to rise above the disunity that was our share in Egypt and unite “as one man with one heart.”
Our unity did not come easily. Abraham’s first disciples came from different clans all over Babylon and the Near East. The only thing that held them together was the belief that Abraham’s tenet of mercy and love of others was the right way to live. But Abraham’s descendants did not keep their unity and ended up in Egypt, where Joseph united them once more.
After his death, the Israelites abandoned their unity yet again and said, “Let us be as the Egyptians” (Midrash Rabbah, Shemot). As a result, “the Lord turned the love that the Egyptians held for them into hatred.” Had the Hebrews kept their unity in Egypt, they would not have been enslaved.
Moses, realizing that the absence of unity was the source of the Israelites’ plight, cemented their unity with the pledge to love one another as they loved themselves. This is why Rabbi Akiva said, “Love your neighbor as yourself is the great rule of the Torah.”(Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim, Chapter 9).
By repeatedly overcoming their hatred, the Israeli people developed a unique method of bonding that to this day exists nowhere else. All other nations rely on a minimal level of affinity to forge their peoplehood, be it kinship or geographical proximity. Jews, however, have nothing in common unless they submit themselves to the idea that the value of unity transcends all other values. In the absence thereof, the Jews return to being people from different, often hostile clans with nothing but suspicion and enmity among them, unless an outside force compels them to unite.
These unique circumstances are, in a way, a double-edged sword. When Jews are united, they are far more united than any nation on earth, since their adhesive is the belief that the value of unity transcends all other values. But when Jews are disputed, they are so hateful of each other that they can come to the atrocities they committed on each other two millennia ago before the Romans stormed the tormented city and massacred the remnants of its inhabitants.
Ending the Blame-Game
Because the unity that forged the Jewish nation is so unique, immediately upon achieving it, the Hebrews were commanded to share it, to be “a light unto nations” by setting an example of unity above conflicts. This is why as long as we maintain our unity, we are safe and we flourish. But the minute we abandon it, we become redundant in the eyes of the world and the rage we call “antisemitism” resurfaces. This is also why the book Maor VaShemeshwrites, “The prime defense against calamity is love and unity.”
Today, the Jewish nation is divided both within Israel and in the Diaspora. In such a state, we are not “a light unto nations”; we radiate internal divisiveness and mutual loathing. This is why the nations, all the nations, want to see the end of the State of Israel and the extinction of the people of Israel.
In his “Introduction to The Book of Zohar,” Baal HaSulam mentions the famous Tikkun No. 30 from The Book of Zohar, which states that when we Jews are not united, we “bring about the existence of poverty, ruin, and robbery, looting, killing, and destructions in the world.” This is precisely what the anti-Semites claim we bring. When Prof. of Quranic studies Imad Hamato stated, “Even when fish fight in the sea, the Jews are behind it,” he inadvertently reflected the very words of The Zohar.
Our current division is inflicting pain not only on ourselves, but on the entire world, and the entire world resents us for it. Our separation unites the Arabs against us and pushes the entire world to support them. If we had unity, we would not need innovative ways to justify our country. The world would feel the benefit it would derive from the State of Israel and the Jewish people, just as today it feels the opposite. “The success of our nation depends only on our brotherly love, on connecting to one another as members of a single family,” wrote Shmuel David Luzzatto.
In much the same way, in Jonathan Sacks’ video we mentioned earlier, he talks about the Jewish people being an extended family: “We may not agree on anything, but we remain one extended family. And the thing about that is if you disagree with a friend, tomorrow he may no longer be your friend. But if you disagree with your family, tomorrow they are still your family.”
If we could be as Sacks described toward each other, we would be “a light unto nations.” Because we are not, we are bringing on ourselves the exact same atrocities that our disunity has brought upon us throughout the ages. It will not take long before the world finds some “reasonable” explanation as to why the establishment of the State of Israel was a mistake and will revoke that UN resolution, leaving the Jews in Israel and throughout the world defenseless and persecuted once again, but this time, the world over.
Only we the Jews can stop this downward spiral, for as the book Shem MiShmuel writes, “When Israel are ‘as one man with one heart,’ they are as a fortified wall against the forces of evil.”
We have ended the days of lamentation over the ruin of the Temple, and we are approaching the 15th of Av, the festival of love. Let us merit the festival, and let us be what we are meant to be—a role-model nation that shows how to raise unity over disunity, cohesion over separation, and love over hate. Let us be “a light [of love] unto nations.”
Featured in The Jerusalem Post