In less than a month, we will be wishing one another Shanah Tova (have a good year), the Hebrew equivalent of Happy New Year. But the beginning of the Hebrew year is not only a time of joy. First and foremost, it is a time of reflection. This year, it seems especially pertinent to reflect on where we are, where we are going, and what we can do to make this year, and the years to follow, safer, happier, and better for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for all of humanity.
We, the people of Israel, are a unique phenomenon in the history of humanity. Similar to the United States, we came from all over, descendants of tribes and clans from all over the Fertile Crescent. At times, those tribes were enemies, at times they were but strangers. But unlike the United States, those fugitives united under Abraham, and under Moses, they abandoned their egos and pledged to be “as one man with one heart.” Only then did they become a nation.
And when our forefathers took that oath, they were also tasked with being “a light unto nations,” to spread their method for unity above hostility throughout the world, so all the people could become one, global nation. In one of final moments of greatness, our great teacher, Rabbi Akiva, left us with a legacy, the essence of our law: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This, he said, is the whole Torah.
Since then, we have forgotten it. We have succumbed to hatred of our brethren, to disunity, wiliness, slander, and derision. We have proven to the world again and again that we do not merit being “a light unto nations” since we are not true to our legacy of unity above hostility, or as King Solomon put it, “Love will cover all crimes” (Prov, 10:12).
So come this High Holidays season, I wish for the people of Israel to be the people of Israel. In fact, I wish for the world that Israel will be Israel, since I know that when Israel are what they should be—united in mutual responsibility and loving their neighbors as themselves—the whole world will rise above disputes and animosities, and peace will rule the planet.