“Never again.” A powerful statement with deep personal meaning to me since childhood when I started asking questions about why most of my family perished under the Third Reich and what the future would look like for my people, I was compelled to get to the bottom of why the Holocaust happened. On the 74th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, we need to face the reality that, in spite of all the suffering the Holocaust brought, hatred against Jews is still alive, strong, widespread, and on the rise.
How can we make sure history doesn’t repeat itself if we fail to understand where the hatred of Jews comes from? While we commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day around the world, I suggest that there is something deeper about our history as a people that we must remember so we can assure ourselves and our children that “Never again” truly means never again.
A recently uncovered book from Hitler’s personal library revealed his intention to extend the Nazi tentacles to include North America in the grip of his Final Solution plans, which were prevented only by the victory of the Allies. If such a thing nearly happened then, how hard is it to imagine the potential for a similar operation in today’s globalized world?
Every year, we remind ourselves that history must not be repeated. However, truth be told, we are witnessing very similar conditions to those before World War II, this time with rampant bigotry and hatred against Jews across the entire globe, basically everywhere. According to a surveyrecently released by the European Commission, nine out of ten European Jews report feeling that anti-Semitism has increased over the past five years and almost a third of them avoid attending Jewish events or visiting Jewish sites because they do not feel safe. In the US, the FBI reports a risein the incidence of anti-Semitic acts since 2016. Out of all religion-based hate crimes, 58% targeted Jews or Jewish institutions.
The trends show that history is not necessarily a good teacher and we have failed to learn our lessons well. There is still time to correct our mistakes in this test of life. The clock is ticking for us, and until we scrutinize and internalize the reason for the constant pressures against us, we will not be able to make a course correction to eradicate anti-Semitism.
Over many centuries, our ancestors fought to maintain their unity above their growing selfishness. But 2,000 years ago, they succumbed to unfounded hatred and were exiled from the land of Israel. Since then, Jews lost the ability to be a light unto nations because we lost our unity. This was the starting point of anti-Semitism as we know it.
Our unity determines the state of the world and its fate. Through our unity, we allow the world to connect as we let the positive, uniting force of love above differences stream into this need of the world. Conversely, our separation denies humanity such a soothing power and invokes within it hatred toward Jews when they are deprived of the calming force. The failure to deliver the ability to unite above differences causes the nation’s aggression toward Jews and is the subconscious reason why they perceive us as the root of all evil.
Our sages explain the phenomenon of such hatred toward us with these words: “No calamity comes to the world but for Israel” (Yevamot, 63a). Jewish leaders throughout the ages have circulated this message widely. They did so as a reminder that the only remedy capable of protecting us from trouble is the power of connection which we Jews can provide.
Rabbi Kalman Kalonymus wrote in Maor va Shemesh (Light and Sun):
“When there are love, unity, and friendship between each other in Israel, no calamity can come upon them.” Similarly, Rabbi Shmuel Bornsztain wrote in Shem mi Shmuel (A Name out of Samuel): “When Israel are as one man with one heart, they are as a fortified wall against the forces of evil.” The Midrash (Tanchuma, Devarim [Deuteronomy]) states likewise: “Israel will not be redeemed until they are all one bundle.”
In a nutshell, “love your neighbor as yourself,” brotherly love, and mutual guarantee are the keys to the security and prosperity of the Jewish people. When we unite above our conflicts and disputes, we unleash nature’s positive force. It is the force that maintains the balance of creation, and its absence among us causes human society’s decline. In his “Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot,” Rav Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam) called this force “reforming light,” and explained that it can balance our self-centered nature and thereby heal human society.
Only if we rekindle the brotherly love we cultivated centuries ago and share the method for achieving this with everyone, will the world stop hating and blaming us for all its troubles.
In his essay, “The Arvut (Mutual Guarantee),” Baal HaSulam writes that “the Israeli nation was established as a conduit to the extent that they purify themselves [from egoism], they pass on their power to the rest of the nations.” Therefore, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day can be more than a commemoration of the millions who died. It can also be an opportunity for us to remember that we have a method for connecting the world, a true means to prevent the atrocities from recurring.
At this time when anti-Semitism is intensifying across the globe, we must strive to rise above our differences and draw the positive force that will connect us, unite the world, and uproot all hatred. Now is our time to radiate light to the rest of the nations, the light of unity, peace, and balance through our shining example of reuniting above all our differences.
Featured in The Times of Israel