Why Egoism Causes Anti-Semitism

Regardless of any inhibiting causes, the more selfish a society becomes, the more it is prone to anti-Semitism.

Over the past several weeks, 70 incidents of bomb threats “aimed at almost 60 JCCs [Jewish Community Centers] in 27 states and one Canadian province” rattled American Jewry. Within one week, cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia were vandalized, a Texas school teacher was fired for a “kill some Jews” tweet, Swastikas and racial slurs were spray painted on cars, a building, and a school playground near Buffalo,” and a CUNY administrator complained about having “too many Jews” on the staff. What started in the campuses of Europe and spilled into Europe’s streets and governments, drifted into US campuses and now into the streets of America. Anti-Semitism is officially here, and Jewish leaders are talking about a worldwide “pandemic.”

Headstones on the ground after vandals pushed them off their bases in the Mount Carmel Cemetery, Philadelphia, February 27, 2017REUTERS/Tom Mihalek

As I demonstrated in the book, Like a Bundle of Reeds: Why Unity and Mutual Guarantee Are Today’s Call of the Hour, and on the Internet site, “Why Do People Hate Jews,” the intensification of anti-Semitism is not coincidental; it is a result of a natural, mandatory process. According to this process, the more selfish a society becomes, the more it is prone to anti-Semitism. Regardless of upbringing, culture, history, or any other inhibiting cause, beyond a certain level of egotism, anti-Semitism must surface just as only so much salt can dissolve in water before it begins to show.

All Michael Laitman's Columns>>

How Egotism Breeds Anti-Semitism

Jew-hatred has been around long before there were Jews. Abraham was not a Jew; he was a Hebrew, but he was hated for the same reason that you and I, and all the Jews throughout history are hated. The root of Jew-hatred lies not in the Jews, but in what we represent, in our primordial root, the inheritance we received from our forefathers.

When Abraham our Father looked at the world and “began to ponder day and night, how it was possible for this wheel to always turn without a driver,” as Maimonides puts it in Mishneh Torah (Chapter 1), he discovered a unifying force that is the root of all of creation, and called that force “God.”

Abraham did not advise people to bow before that God or feed it semolina, as his countryfolk would do with their gods. He simply said that he had discovered a force of unity, and that if people want to be happy, they should also unite and be like that force.

During Abraham’s time, the Babylonians were busy building the Tower of Babel. Yet, Abraham noticed that they were growing increasingly self-centered and alienated from each other, which prompted him to search for the answer that Maimonides described. The book Pirkey de Rabbi Eliezer (Chapter 24) illustrates how the Babylonians “wanted to speak to one another but did not know each other's language. What did they do? Each took up his sword and they fought each other to death. Indeed, half the world was slaughtered there, and from there they scattered all over the world.”

When Abraham suggested they unite instead of fighting, their king, Nimrod, expelled him from his country. As the exiled Abraham wandered toward Canaan, people “gathered around him and asked him about his words. He taught everyone,” continues Maimonides, until “thousands and tens of thousands assembled around him, and they are the people of the house of Abraham. He planted this tenet in their hearts, composed books about it, and taught his son, Isaac. And Isaac sat and taught and warned, and informed Jacob, and appointed him a teacher, to sit and teach... And Jacob our Father taught all his sons.” Finally, a tribe that knows the law of unity was formed.

A few centuries later, Moses wanted to do the same. He aspired to unite his people, to which Pharaoh resisted. Like Abraham before him, Moses fled along with his entourage, except this time there were millions who left with him and they needed an “upgrade” to Abraham’s method of connection, so Moses gave them the Torah.

This set of laws we call Torah comes down to one and only principle, which Old Hillel described very simply: “That which you hate, do not do unto your neighbor; this is the whole of the Torah. The rest is commentary; go study” (Shabbat, 31a). Under Moses, the Hebrew tribes became a nation only when they committed to unite “as one man with one heart.” Now, officially, the Hebrews have become a nation, taking its name, Israel, directly from its vocation, to go Yashar-El (straight to God)—to achieve the same unity as the force that Abraham discovered.

Immediately thereafter, Israel was tasked with completing what Abraham intended to achieve when he first began to speak of unity above hatred—that the whole world would benefit from the method of achieving unity. Now that they achieved it, they were told to be “a light unto nations.” Ramchal wrote that Moses intended for his Torah to show the path of unity to the entire world. “Moses wished to complete the correction of the world at that time. ... However, he did not succeed because of the corruptions that occurred along the way,” Ramchal wrote in his commentary on the Torah.

Moses’ achievement of uniting the people of Israel was his final victory over Pharaoh, who is the evil inclination, namely egoism, or as Maimonides put it: “You should know, my son, that Pharaoh, king of Egypt, is in fact the evil inclination” (The Writings of Rambam).

The Dormant Seed

Following the formation of the Jewish nation under Moses, the Jews knew many ups and downs. When unity prevailed among us, we prospered. When egoism took over, we suffered. Approximately two millennia ago, the egoism of our ancestors reached such levels that they could not tolerate each other. Sina’at hinam (unfounded/baseless hatred) erupted among them, and the leader of the Roman legion in Judea, Tiberius Julius Alexander—himself a Jew whose own father had coated the Temple’s gates with gold—destroyed the Temple and set off the Jewish exile from the land of Israel. Indeed, it is as the great Maharal of Prague wrote 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.”

We have never overcome that hatred. However, the seed of unity still lies within us and our sages throughout the ages have stressed that this is the key to our salvation, but we have forgotten how to cover our hatred with love, as did Abraham and his disciples and Moses and his people.

Yet, Jewish sages throughout the ages remembered the remedy of unity. 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 .”Likewise, The Book of Consciousness writes, “We are commanded at each generation to strengthen the unity among us so our enemies do not rule over us.”

Although the seed of unity exists within us, as long as we are disunited, we are not “a light unto nations,” and we are not spreading unity to the world, as Abraham and Moses had intended. As a result, humanity is growing increasingly egoistic by the day. Our egoism today is so intense that even though we know that we are ruining our children’s future by polluting our planet, we simply donot care enough to stop. We understand that pluralism is important and liberalism is vital to society, but everyone is so narcissistic that we simply cannot listen to each other, much less unite above our differences.

At the heyday of the Spanish monarchy, the Jews were expelled from Spain, tortured, and killed by the Inquisition under the leadership of Torquemada, who—like Tiberius—was of Jewish descent .In the previous century, Adolf Hitler did not care about all the achievements that German Jews had lavished on his country. He blamed them for every wrong that had ever befallen Germany. When he could not expel the Jews, because no one would have them, he exterminated them.

When We Unite, We Are a Light

The Book of Zohar writes, “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” (Aharei Mot).

Similar to The Zohar, its great commentator, Rav Yehuda Ashlag, wrote that “the Israeli nation had been constructed as a gateway by which the world can understand the pleasantness and tranquility in love of others .”Like Ashlag, the Rav Kook wrote, “In Israel is the secret to the unity of the world” (Orot Kodesh).

Just like our great ancestor Abraham, we are the carriers of the method of correction for the egoism that separates and destroys our world piece by piece by piece. If we do not reinstate our manner of uniting above differences, the nations will blame us for their woes and punish us yet again. The most notorious anti-Semite in American history, Henry Ford, recognized the role of the Jews toward society in his book, The International Jew—The World's Foremost Problem: “Modern reformers, who are constructing model social systems, would do well to look into the social system under which the early Jews were organized.”

Nazism in America

We think that Nazi Germany was a one-time event. But saying “Never again” will not prevent history from repeating itself. We are forgetting that it was not the Germans who invented the yellow badge, but the British. As early as 1218, King Henry III “proclaimed the Edict of the Badge, making England the first European nation to require Jews to wear a marking badge.”

In the early 1950s, Rav Yehuda Ashlag wrote in The Writings of the Last Generation: “The world erroneously considers Nazism a particular offshoot of Germany. In truth … all the nations are equal in that; there is no hope at all that Nazism will perish with the victory of the allies, for tomorrow the Anglo-Saxons will adopt Nazism.”

For decades, America has been on a path of growing egoism, alienation, and social isolation. Depression has been the primary cause of illness in the country for years now, and despair is growing rapidly. If a book titled The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement can reach the top of The New York Times best seller list, and millennials define their milieu as the “Me, Me, Me” culture, you know that the country is on the brink of implosion.

Actually, it seems like the implosion has already started. The 2016 elections revealed the divisions in the country, the guile of politicians, and the falsehood of the news media. No one trusts anyone nowadays in America. This is the perfect setting for a rapid rise in anti-Semitism.

If American Jews do not take their lives in their own hands and force themselves to unite above their mutual dislike, the Americans will force them to through bloodshed. There is no more time .Only one action is required—the Jews must put aside differences and unite because unity is the Jewish people’s sole salvation, and because when we unite, we are a light unto nations—giving the world what Abraham intended for humanity to have almost four millennia ago, and what the world so badly needs today.

In the next column: The growth of egotism in humanity as a mandatory outcome of human development.