Unity or Terrorism We Call the Shots

When we unite and truly live the essence of the Israeli people, covering our hate with love, only then we will merit this land.

Sunday’s murderous truck ramming in Jerusalem, the conviction of Sgt. Elor Azaria, and the persistent squabbling among ourselves on social media, on top of the mounting pressure from outside, the latest example of which is the US backed UN Security Council Resolution 2334 against Israeli settlements, tell us one thing: We have to pull together. On Saturday night, thousands of Israelis gathered at Rabin Square for a display of unity. But as long as we settle for displays, we will not get anywhere.

Capt. Ziv Shilon (res.) at the rally in Tel Aviv, January 7, 2017.Tomer Appelbaum

The event at Rabin Square was prompted by a Facebook post made by (Res) Capt. Ziv Shilon. The post expressed the need for unity and solidarity, and the people who attended the event came for just that purpose. One participant told an interviewer from the Arvut (Mutual Guarantee) Movement, “We all understand that something is causing us to disintegrate, and we have to stop the tsunami.”

Any initiative for unity is welcome because it promotes the very reason for our existence as a Jewish nation. “In Israel is the secret to the unity of the world,” wrote the Rav Kook (Orot Kodesh). Unity is in our DNA, though we are rarely aware of it. Regrettably, it often takes a tragic event to remind us of it. Perhaps this is why another participant at the event told the Arvut Movement interviewer, which broadcast the event live on Facebook, “Love your neighbor as yourself is something internal and deep that is missing in society today. Events like today’s connect everyone above different views and faces and unite all of us on a very deep level.”

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We are not new to gatherings of people with “different views and faces.” Almost 4,000 years ago, Abraham Our Father gathered us for the first time and led us to the Land of Israel. As is today, Abraham’s society in Babylon was shattered by alienation on the one hand, and an aspiration for human achievements on the other. The book, Pirkey de Rabbi Elazar, writes that the Babylonians “wanted to speak each other’s language but did not know each other’s tongue, so each took his sword and they fought one another, and half the world was slaughtered there.” The ancient Hebrews came from multiple tribes and nationalities. Escaping the disunity in their own tribes, they flocked to Abraham, who taught them unity and love of others, the traits that eventually made us into a nation. Today, after two millennia of abandonment of this most valuable asset, we must return to our roots and restore our unity.

Over the years, Abraham and his descendants developed a connection method that enabled their disciples to transcend the egoism that stood between them and bridge it with love. The higher the threshold of egoism became, the higher the bridge they built above it. The book, Likutey Etzot (Assorted Counsels), writes, “The Essence of peace is to connect two opposites. Hence, do not be alarmed if you see a person whose view is the complete opposite of yours and you think that you will never be able to make peace with him. Also, when you see two people who are completely opposite to each other, do not say that it is impossible to make peace between them. On the contrary, the essence of peace is to try to make peace between two opposites.” King Solomon aptly summarized this approach in his proverb (Prov 10:12): “Hate stirs strife, and love covers all crimes.”

Today, it is evident that humanity’s driving force is the ego. The ego has given us technology, medicine, and communication, but it has also given us pollution, violence, and alienation. In the end, the ego is using all the good things it created for negative purposes to the point that it puts our world in existential danger on multiple fronts, leaving us helpless and hopeless.

This is why Abraham’s principle of covering the ego with love is crucial today. It states that trying to mend the ego’s wrongful results is hopeless from the start. Instead, we have to mend the pathogen—the ego itself. The ego, like any fuel, can burn us or warm us. All we need is to know how to use it correctly.

In order to cover the ego with love, as King Solomon put it, the ancient Israelites developed an interpersonal communication method that induced a positive force to counter the negative impact of the ego. It was actually a gentile who first designed the method. The book of Exodus (Chapter 18) tells us that Jethro, Priest of Midian, advised Moses to organize the nation in groups of ten that would work among themselves on their unity, instead of Moses having to tell the entire nation how to get along. These groups were then grouped into larger and larger groups, until the entire nation was formed into groups of ten that were all united with one another, adhering to the fundamental tenet that Moses taught—the law of being “as one man with one heart.”

Regrettably, the principle of uniting above the ego is largely absent in most every faction of the Israeli society and the world Jewish community. In ancient times, this disunity intensified into such fierce hatred that it caused Jews to fight other Jews in the days of the Greek rule in Israel, and eventually brought the Roman army into Jerusalem, whose Temple was destroyed by Tiberius Julius Alexander, himself a Jew whose own father had coated the Temple’s gates with gold. As the great Maharal of Prague put it in Netzah Israel: “The Temple was ruined because of unfounded hatred, because their hearts divided and they were unworthy of a Temple, which is the unification of Israel.”

The Arvut Movement’s Connection Circles, where people of all backgrounds and views sit together and find unity where they did not dream they couldCourtesy

To date, this sinat hinam (baseless hatred) has not abated. As it caused our ruin two millennia ago, it can cause our ruin now. As one man said to the interviewer broadcasting for the Arvut channel, “Great empires fell because of disunity. We here have enemies all around us; there is hatred of Jews, hatred of Israel, and now we are hating each other?! If we continue this way, this is the beginning of our end.”

A Proactive Attitude

The only way that Israel and the Jewish people can meet the challenges before them and triumph is by reinstating the unity among Jews. The Arvut Movement’s Connection Circles, where people of all backgrounds and views sit together and find unity where they did not dream they could, is only one out of many available techniques. Yet, what really counts is that we all remember that our egos do not exist so we will fight one another; they exist in order to serve as footings for bridges to be built between us.

The book, Likutey Halachot (Assorted Rules), writes, “The essence of vitality, existence, and correction in creation is achieved by people of differing opinions mingling together in love, unity, and peace.” It is as my teacher, the great Kabbalist, Rav Baruch Shalom Ashlag (the RABASH), often reminded me: “Love is an animal that feeds on mutual concessions.”

If we want to guarantee our future here in Israel, we must build our country and our nation on the basis of love that covers our egos. Our nation was formed when we agreed to unite as one heart, and was disintegrated when that heart was broken by unfounded hatred. David Ben Gurion was right when he wrote in Revolution of the Spirit about the commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself”: “With these words, the humane, eternal law of Judaism has been formed... The State of Israel will merit its name only if its social, economic, domestic, and foreign policies are based on these three eternal words.” My teacher’s father, Rav Yehuda Ashlag, known as Baal HaSulam for his Sulam (Ladder) commentary on The Book of Zohar, wrote, “We have been given the land, but we have not received it” (“A Speech for the Completion of The Zohar”). When we unite and truly live the essence of the Israeli people, covering our hate with love, we will merit this land.

Like it or not, and we usually don’t, we Jews are the chosen people. But we have not been chosen to patronize anyone; we have been chosen to set an example by showing that we can unite above our hatred, and thereby become “a light unto nations.” As long as we refrain from unity, the world will not legitimize our existence in Israel or anywhere else in the world. It will blame us for all the troubles in the world just as Hitler did. The soaring popularity of Mein Kampf is no coincidence. No one knows how long we still have here, but the fact that only the United States stands between us and a UN resolution to annihilate the state of Israel proves that we are living on borrowed time.

There is no political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, nor will there be any solution before we unite among ourselves. When we do, no one will say that we do not belong in Israel. I am neither for nor against any particular political view because I know that any view seeks, by default, to prove its superiority and the other’s inferiority. Since they all discourage unity and promote hatred, they are all wrong in my view. No political view can be right if it creates separation. This, to me, is the only criterion.

The book, Maor VaShemesh, writes, “The prime defense against calamity is love and unity. When there are love, unity, and friendship between each other in Israel, no calamity can come over them.” In his essay, “The Arvut” (Mutual Guarantee), Baal HaSulam wrote that our unity was not for our own sake, but for the sake of the world. Interpreting RASHI’s words that Israel were “as one man with one heart” at the foot of Mt. Sinai, Baal HaSulam wrote that “each and every person from the nation completely detached himself from self-love, and wanted only to benefit his friend. …Because of it, the Israeli nation had been constructed as a gateway [for] the whole of the human race the world over …until they develop to such an extent that they can grasp the pleasantness and tranquility in love of others.”

2017 will be a fateful year. This year, we will determine whether we unite and build a good future for our nation and the world, or clash and take ourselves and the world down the path of hatred.

As a side note, I would like to add that I am happy, but also concerned about the approaching inauguration of Donald Trump. I fear that his favorable treatment of Israel might lessen the drive of Jews and Israelis to do our task, more so than if a hostile US president were in office. My concern is that complacency will deafen our ears and block our hearts. Therefore, along with Trump’s favorable line toward Israel, we must add the recognition of Israel’s role in the world, which is, once again, to be an example of unity to the entire tormented world. To conclude, I’d like to quote the great Rav Kook who wrote, “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” (Orot Kodesh [Sacred Lights]).