Imagine how you would feel if one tiny nation controlled the global water flow. If it closes the valve, the water stops running all over the world and everything dries up and dies. If it opens it, everyone can hydrate themselves. Now imagine how you would feel if that tiny nation controlled not the world’s water supply, but the world’s oxygen supply. If it closes the valve, everyone suffocates; if it opens it, the world can breathe. In times when that nation closed the valve, would you “bless” it? Would you love those people or would you hate them and want to somehow get rid of them?
If we look at the world through the eyes of our sages, from the days of the Torah, some 35 centuries ago, through the days of the prophets, the kings, the writing of The Book of Zohar, the Mishnah and Talmud, and all the many sages that have written countless books about the people of Israel and its position in the world, we will find one thing in common: We are that tiny nation. When we open the valve, the world can breathe, drink, and live easily and peacefully. When we close the valve, the world suffocates, dries up, and hates us for it.
We don’t do it on purpose, of course. We don’t think of the world; we think of ourselves. In fact, we think only of ourselves, and that is exactly the problem. We are so concentrated on ourselves that we cannot stand each other, and our division closes the valve for the flow of brotherhood and friendship in the world.
In other words, our division, our mutual hatred, spreads hatred throughout the world. It reflects on people’s relationships with one another, makes them clash with one another, and then they blame us for their rows. We may not feel that we are causing their collisions, but they do. When they accuse us of being responsible for all the wars, as actor and filmmaker Mel Gibson once ranted, they’re not just venting anger; they mean it very deeply. Even when they don’t say it, they still think so.
This has been the case with the Jewish people for more than thirty centuries, and it will never change. Our only hope of mitigating the world’s wrath toward us is if we do what they expect: take responsibility for the world’s wars, make peace among ourselves, and let this brotherhood, which we have not been able to establish for the past two millennia, shine its light throughout the world and heal it.
We have given the world numerous gifts. There is no area where we do not excel. We are world leaders in science, culture, economy, art and literature, and every area of human engagement. Still, the world hates us. The only thing for which it does not hate us is the motto we have bequeathed to the world: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If it has any grievances against us in this regard, it is that we are not realizing this motto in our own society.
The Jewish people formed a unique nation. Until the establishment of our peoplehood, and ever since then, there has only been one case in which a group of people adopted a certain ideology, which solidified them so tightly that they became a new nation. That ideology was Abraham’s ideology of mercy and love of others, and the nation he and his descendants formed was the Israeli nation. Abraham’s ideology was not only to unite and love one another, but to spread that unity to the entire world. Abraham had even tried to do this in his own homeland, Babylon, but he did not succeed. Nevertheless, the onus remains with his successors, the Jewish people.
Accordingly, when Moses received the Jewish Law called Torah, whose primary principle is “Love your neighbor as yourself,” it was only after the nation united “as one man with one heart.” Immediately after, the nascent nation was tasked with being “a light unto nations”: to spread the newly established unity the world over.
Since then, all our leaders have followed the motto of unity and the obligation to spread it. King Solomon mused that “Hate stirs strife, and love will cover all crimes” (Prov. 10:12). The Book of Zohar declared (Aharei Mot) that when the friends, the disciples of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, unite after overcoming mutual hatred, they bring peace to the world. The Talmud (Yevamot 63a) writes, “No calamity comes to the world but for Israel,” and the Midrash (Beresheet Rabbah, 66) states about the people of Israel: “This nation, world peace dwells within it.” The book Sefat Emet writes, “The truth is that everything depends on the children of Israel. As they correct themselves, all creations follow them.” And when reflecting on the world’s woes, Rav Kook stated about our people (Orot HaKodesh [Lights of Sanctity]), “Since we were ruined by unfounded hatred and the world was ruined with us, we will be rebuilt by unfounded love, and the world will be rebuilt with us.”
Especially now, in these volatile days, we must rise above our division, reignite our brotherhood, and open the valve so love and unity may flow throughout the world.