In last week’s column, “Why are there anti-Israel Jews,” I wrote that like me, Jewish haters of Israel feel that Israel’s current conduct is detrimental to the world. However, and this is a big however, when it comes to the solution, they and I could not be more opposite, and I explained how. The column generated a fiery debate, and some of the readers took only the first part of my statement, and ignoring the rest, declared that I, too, hate Israel but was “just using a softer sell.”
Perhaps I should have anticipated this reaction, but I call it as I see it, and sometimes my words can be taken out of context. My “agenda,” if you will, is only this: The well-being of the Jewish people and the well-being of the world depend on the unity of our nation, and subsequently the unity of the entire world. This is what I have learned from my teachers, and I have dedicated my life to passing on this message.
In truth, I am thankful to the critics for giving me an opportunity to elaborate on the question of Israel’s role in the world and the sources that have led me to believe what I believe.
Who, or What, Is the People of Israel?
The Jewish people is unique. Nations are usually formed out of a common culture or ethnicity, or both. The Jewish people is the exact opposite. The Midrash (Beresheet Rabah) and Maimonides (Mishneh Torah) provide detailed descriptions of the formation of our people. In Maimonides’ words: “Abraham began to call out to the whole world … wandering from town to town and from kingdom to kingdom until he arrived at the land of Canaan… And when gathered around him and asked him about his words, he taught everyone…until he brought them back to the path of truth. Finally, thousands and tens of thousands assembled around him, and they are the people of the house of Abraham.”
Understanding our background is therefore key to understanding that the Jewish people is not a nation in the common sense of the word, but a group of people who subscribe to an idea! The first Hebrews came from all over the Fertile Crescent and today’s Middle East, and belonged to many different tribes and cultures. They were an eclectic company joined only by the idea that there is one force that governs the universe, and not some polytheistic system. They also grasped that this force is one of mercy, love, and unity, and that it is the only thing that can connect us above our differences.
As the ancient Hebrews developed their peoplehood, they tightened their bond to the point that they agreed to unite “as one man with one heart.” At that point, at the foot of Mt. Sinai, they received the code of law for conducting a society whose members are united at heart.
Tikkun Olam, a.k.a., a Light unto Nations
Abraham was a pioneer. But just as he circulated his knowledge to anyone who would listen, Abraham’s descendants were tasked with continuing his work and spreading their forefather’s notions to the rest of humanity.
Our sages were keenly aware of this obligation and often expressed it in their writings: “The intention of creation was for all to be one bundle… but the matter was spoiled. The correction began in the generation of Babylon, meaning the correction of gathering and assembling of people which began with Abraham. …And the final correction will be when everyone becomes one bundle” (Shem Mishmuel).
It is therefore obvious from our sources that Tikkun Olam (correction of the world) is about bringing unity to the world. However, today many Jews do not believe that the task of being “a light unto nations” still holds true for us. But whether you call it “light unto nations” or Tikkun Olam, our role in the world has not changed—we are to lead the way to unity by developing and implementing the method of connection, and thereby serving as a role model.
The only thing that held our forefathers together as a nation, despite the fierce hatred and occasional bloody conflicts that erupted among them, was the understanding that all of these crimes arose only so they would cover them with love and maintain our obligation to the world. “All the wars in the Torah are for peace and love,” writes The Book of Zohar (Beshalach). If we forget this, we immediately regress from being the nation of Israel and become once more the eclectic tribes from which we all came.
Whenever someone asks me, “How do you know that the essence of the people of Israel is about covering differences with unity, and that our task is to unite the world?” I refer them to this beautiful excerpt from The Zohar (Aharei Mot): “‘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 each other. At first, they seem like people at war, wishing to kill one another. Then they return to being in brotherly love. …And you, the friends who are here, 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.”
Examples of sages who wrote about our role in the world abound. “The children of Israel became guarantors to correct the entire world … everything depends on the children of Israel” (Sefat Emet). “Noah was created to correct the world in the state that it was at that time. …Moses 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 … However, he did not succeed because of the corruptions that occurred along the way” (Adir Bamarom).
Indeed, while leaders of other nations wanted to conquer the world, our ancient sages wanted to correct it through unity.
From Detrimental to Beneficial
Despite our efforts, two thousand years ago our unity collapsed and we succumbed to baseless hatred. We dispersed throughout the world, the Temple was ruined, and we lost sovereignty over the land where we were meant to perform the correction of our unity.
Since that time, people have begun to sense that Jews were not doing what they were supposed to do. But because they could not pinpoint what it is that Jews were supposed to do, they began to blame Jews for every trouble and predicament that came their way.
If they had no money, it was because the Jews robbed it through usury. If they were ill, it was because the Jews poisoned the wells. If conflicts emerged, it was because the Jews were warmongers. If a country lost at war, it was because the Jews were a fifth column. Every trouble had but one cause: “It’s the Jews wot done it.”
But in truth, it was not what the Jews did; it was what they didn’t do that made them blameworthy—they didn’t unite. They did not set an example of unity for the world, so humanity could not unite, and troubles soon ensued. “In Israel,” Rav Kook wrote, “is the secret to the unity of the world” (Orot HaKodesh).
Even the notorious anti-Semite, industrialist Henry Ford, felt that the fault of the Jews was that they did not bring the world the benefit that they were intended to bring: “Society has a large claim against him the Jew that he … begin to fulfill … the ancient prophecy that through him all the nations of the earth should be blessed” (The International Jew — The World’s Foremost Problem).
The Great Opportunity
The establishment of the State of Israel reopened before us the possibility of instating the unity of hearts that initially made us into a nation. The task we were given is as valid now as it was then, and the world demands that we carry it out. Is Israel detrimental to the world? As long as we are not uniting above our differences, thereby inflicting strife upon the world, we are detrimental. “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 the love of others, which is the ladder to the purpose of Creation,” wrote Rav Yehuda Ashlag.
If we disperse, as Soros and his lot would like, the world will not know how to achieve peace, and human society will collapse into complete mayhem. Instead, “The children of Israel correct the world when they return to being one nation… the correction should be that we correct ourselves and find the root of unity out of the separation” (Sefat Emet).
Eventually, we will all see that “the prime defense against calamity is love and unity” (Maor VaShemesh). We can come to this by pressure from the world, or of our own volition. The choice is ours, as is the knowhow. Indeed, if the nations want to find peace, the only thing that they must do is invert their hostility toward Israel into pressure upon Israel to unite and set an example for the world, for if we unite we will bring the world a benefit that no one else can, and one which everyone subconsciously expects of us: peace, brotherhood, and unity.
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