Our current disunity causes the world to once again want to be judenfrei (free of Jews), as the Nazis put it. Only we can change this, and only if we rise above our hatred for each other.
On June 14, fire engulfed theshaking
blamed the Grenfell Tower fire on the Jews.Al-Quds day marchers
The next day, and for at least two days in a row, Muslim rioters stormed the London Jewish neighborhood Stamford Hill with bats, machetes, and swords, effectively instigating a pogrom in 2017 London. This time around, the Jews were lucky and only minor injuries were reported. According to the report, the police dispersed the rioters after some time, but despite the flagrant aggression, there have been no reports of arrests.
The history of persecution of the Jews is as long as the history of the Jewish people itself. All of our patriarchs were persecuted by their next of kin, as well as by the rulers of their dwelling places.
When the Jews were exiled from the land of Israel and dispersed throughout the globe, they suffered persecution wherever they went. Whenever and wherever there was a crisis, people blamed it on the Jews. A look at the history of persecution of the Jews and the history of antisemitism reveals a ceaseless march of torments of the Jewish people.
Even today, in the “enlightened” 21st century, antisemitism not only thrives the world over, but is escalating to perilous levels once again. At times, it masquerades itself as hatred of the Jewish state, at times it manifests as hatred of both Jews and the Jewish state, and at times it exposes itself as hatred of Jews. But in all cases, it is antisemitism. And in all cases, it blames the Jews for the misfortunes of the world.
An Unspoken Expectation
From the very beginning, the founders of the Jewish nation aspired to unite the entire world as a remedy for the ills of humanity. Maimonides, Midrash Rabbah, Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer, and numerous other sources write that Abraham was expelled from Babylon precisely because he wanted to help the Babylonians unite above their growing alienation and hatred for each other. Abraham developed a way to unite above hatred. He wished to share it with his townspeople of Ur of the Chaldeans in Babylon but his own father had the king attempt to kill him and finally expel him.
Noah, too, “was created to correct the world in the state it was in at that time,” wrote the great Ramchal in his book, Adir Bamarom (Part 2, “Commentary on Daniel’s Dream”). Concerning Moses, the Ramchal wrote that he also “wished to complete the correction of the world at that time. This is why he took the mixed multitude, as he thought that thus would be the correction of the world, of whom it was said, ‘For then I will become to the nations a clear language to call on everyone in the name of the Lord.’ However, he did not succeed because of the corruptions that occurred along the way” (Commentary on the Torah, Bamidbar [Numbers]).
The “inauguration” of the people of Israel as a nation came at the foot of Mt. Sinai. The name Sinai comes from the Hebrew word sinaa (hatred). The historic event at the foot of Mt. Sinai was a test. Those who managed to allegorically scale the mountain of hatred and unite “as one man with one heart” became the nation of Israel. Those who could not, remained in a state of mutual hatred. This is why Midrash Rabbah (Shemot [Exodus], 2:4), Kli Yakar, and many other sources write about “Mount Sinai, from which hatred descended unto the nations of the world.”
However, the nations are not meant to remain forever in their state of hatred. They, too, wanted to enjoy the benefits of unity, but at the time they were unable to overcome their egos. For this reason, as soon as the people of Israel united and thereby became a nation, they were commanded to be “a light unto nations,” namely to help the rest of the world achieve that special unity.
Rav Yehuda Ashlag, author of the Sulam (Ladder) commentary on The Book of Zohar, writes in his essay “Mutual Guarantee”: “It is upon the Israeli nation to qualify itself and all the people of the world to develop until they take upon themselves that sublime work of love of others, which is the ladder to the purpose of Creation.” Ashlag describes the Israeli nation as “a sort of gateway by which sparks of love of others would shine upon the whole of the human race the world over.”
Since that day by the mountain, when the Jews became a nation, the world has been waiting for them to fulfill their obligation to be a light of unity to the nations. Every so often, the nations’ unspoken, and usually subconscious expectation bursts in unrestrained and violent frustration that drives them to make up some excuse to vent their anger at the Jews.
The antisemitism we view as the sickness of the nations is in fact their anger at us for not healing them from hatred. We have no one to blame for antisemitism; its solution is in our hands, and only in our hands, as the book Sefat Emet writes, “The children of Israel became guarantors to correct the entire world … everything depends on the children of Israel.”
The (Real) Final Solution
“The most striking example of the failure of the Jewish political reaction to antisemitism involves the utter inability to overcome Jewish fragmentation,” wrote former President of Brandeis University Jehuda Reinharz in Living With Antisemitism: Modern Jewish Responses. Reinharz also links Jew-hatred in Nazi Germany prior to World War II, to the presence or absence of Jewish unity: “It is notable that even in the 1930s, when antisemitism grew apace, Jewish unity remained a slogan on the lips of politicians rather than a fact of life.”
Throughout history, our most satanic detractors despised us for our alienation from each other, for our egoism. Adolf Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf: “The Jew is only united when a common danger forces him to be or a common booty entices him; if these two grounds are lacking, the qualities of the crassest egoism manifest.” A bit less acridly, German philosopher and anthropologist Ludwig Feuerbach wrote in The Essence of Christianity: “The Jews have maintained their peculiarity to this day. Their principle, their God, is the most practical principle in the world—namely egoism.”
Some antisemites and more moderate non-Jews expressed their wish to see an example of unity in the Jews. Since there was none in the present, they looked to our past. Henry Ford wrote in his infamous composition, The International Jew—The World’s Foremost Problem: “Modern reformers, who are constructing model social systems, would do well to look into the social system under which the early Jews were organized.” Likewise, British journalist and historian Paul Johnson wrote in A History of the Jews: “At a very early stage in their collective existence the Jews believed they had detected a divine scheme for the human race, of which their own society was to be a pilot.”
Throughout the ages, our sages have known that exercising unity and passing it on to the world was the key to redeeming us from persecution and hatred. The Rav Kook wrote in Orot Hakodesh 3: “The depth of the hatred is as the depth of the love. If we were ruined, and the world was ruined with us, by unfounded hatred, we will be rebuilt, and the world will be rebuilt with us, through unfounded love.”
Almost two millennia earlier, The Book of Zohar itself wrote that only if we overcome our hatred and unite, the world will be at peace, as well. In the portion Aharei Mot, The Zohar writes, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to also sit together. These are the friends as they sit together, and are not separated from one another. At first, they seem like people at war, wishing to kill one another. Then they return to being in brotherly love. …And as you were in fondness and love before, henceforth you will also not part … And by your merit there will be peace in the world.”
Our current disunity causes the world to want to be judenfrei (free of Jews), as the Nazis put it. Indeed, antisemitism today is at least as widespread as prior to WWII, if not more.
But the final solution to the “Jewish problem”—as Ahad Ha’am and the Nazis referred to our existence—is not the elimination of the Jewish people. The solution will come when, and only when, we agree to do what the nations of the world expect of us, whether consciously or not. We must rise above our hatred, unite as our ancestors did millennia ago, and truly be “a light unto nations.”
We may not feel that we know how to unite, or that unity among Jews is even possible, but the seeds of our past cohesion lie dormant within us, awaiting our call. They will wake up as soon as we attempt to open our hearts to one another.
It would be a tragic mistake to wait once more for the nations to force us to unite. The only way we can achieve a sustainable union that will serve as a role model is if we do this of our own volition. If the nations push us to it, it will be out of hatred, and it will come with all the dire consequences related to it. But if we approach one another voluntarily, the world will give us all the help we need. If we do not see right now that the world will do so, it is because humanity is waiting for us to take the first step; the nations want it to come from us.
Only when we come together in order to spread the light of unity to the entire world will the age-old hatred that was born with the birth of our nation die once and for all. If we initiate this reconciliation, there will be no need for riots and pogroms against Jews. There will be no false accusations of setting fires to towers and no blood libels of any kind. Instead, we will finally be what we were commanded to be: “a light unto nations.”
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