The Jews are known as ‘the chosen people,’ as those intended to show the way to the light to all the nations. However, the message the Jews bring, of mutual guarantee and unity, is unpleasant to the listener’s ego, so what happens when this message hits the wall of self-centeredness?
Reluctance to Unite
One of the most important prayers on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is known as Maftir171 Yonah (Jonah), during which the entire book of Jonah is read. The story symbolizes more than anything the ambivalence that our people feels toward its role in the world, it epitomizes the dilemma of Jewish people throughout the generations.
On the one hand, we are the chosen people, intended to show the way to the light to all the nations. On the other hand, we insistently and futilely try to avoid our fate because the message of mutual guarantee and unity that we bring is unpleasant to the listener’s ego, as we are all born self-centered and want to remain that way.
Rejection Helps the Jews Unite
Yet, the Jews were never allowed by the nations to mingle to the point of disappearance. Had that happened, the purpose for which the Jews exist, namely the revelation of the Creator to the rest of the nations, would have been defeated.
Professor Emeritus of Judaism at the University of Wales, Dan Cohn-Sherbok said: “The paradox of Jewish life is that hatred and Jewish survival have been interrelated for thousands of years, and that without anti-Semitism, we may be doomed to extinction.”
Particularly notable examples of Jewish assimilation and rejection took place in 14th and 15th century Spain, and in Germany, before and during World War II and the Holocaust, resulting in the extermination of virtually the entire European Jewry.
Jewish National Unity as Insurance
It has been said that unity has been Israel’s “insurance” against all evils, the ultimate panacea. And yet, by now our egotism has so evolved that we can no longer maintain unity unless our very survival depends on it. This fault was noticed by friends and foes alike.
In a paper he published in June 1940, Baal HaSulam noted that our troubles come from lack of unity. He wrote that we are “like a pile of nuts, united into a single body from outside by a sack that wraps and aggregates them (…) That measure of unity does not make them a uniform body, and even the slightest movement of the sack inflicts racket and separations among them, by which they come to constant partial unifications and separations.”
Adolf Hitler, also noticed the trait of unity in Jews, and noted the lack of it among us today. In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote, “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 come into their own, and in the twinkling of an eye the united people turns into a horde of rats, fighting bloodily among themselves.”
Unity as the Basis for Changing the World
If we carry out our role and pass on the light of benevolence to the world, the quality of the Creator, the internality that Baal HaSulam speaks of, then “the internality of the Nations of the World, the Righteous of the Nations of the World, will overpower and submit their externality, which are the destructors. And the internality of the world, too, which is Israel, shall rise in all their merit and virtue over the externality of the world, which are the nations. Then, all the nations of the world will recognize and acknowledge Israel’s merit over them.”
It may seem like a hefty task for such a small number of people to make such a great difference in the world, but in truth, the success or failure of our efforts depends on one and one thing only—our unity.
Mark Zimmerman is a freelance writer who writes on topics relating to social issues, spirituality and the wisdom of Kabbalah. The article “What Is the Role of Jews in the World?” is based on concepts in the book Like a Bundle of Reeds by Dr. Michael Laitman, available for free download at bundleofreeds.com.
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