President Trump’s address to Congress, where he sought to “deliver a message of unity and strength,” eased the tensions between the president and the media. But the thaw did not last long. The next day, the same media outlets that declared war on the president were all over him again spewing fire over everything that he and his cabinet members do—from Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ alleged unscrupulous ties to Russia to Counselor Kellyanne “Conway’s inappropriate” posture on the sofa in the Oval Office.
If there is anything good about this infantile “persecution” of the president, it is the airing out of the fact that America is rife with anti-Semitism. Worse yet, the 94 percent increase in anti-Semitism in New York City from 2015 to 2016 indicates an exponential rise in hate crimes against Jews. This, coupled with the fact that firearms have been introduced in these hate crimes makes them far more dangerous, as in the incident at the Indiana synagogue, where a bullet was fired into a classroom. We can no longer feel complacent.
As I have shown in my previous column, the more egoistic a society becomes, the more it is prone to anti-Semitism. The current levels of egoism in the American society are disintegrating it. Unless a drastic change toward cohesion takes place in America, the blame for the country’s woes will fall on the Jews, just as Jews have always been blamed for every woe that any country has ever suffered.
How Egoism Grows
The growth of egoism is inevitable. It is neither good nor bad, but a natural process of development. On the inanimate, vegetative, and animal levels of nature there is no egoism, only a desire for self-preservation, or survival. On every level but the human, nature courses smoothly as two opposite forces even each other out and create balanced evolution. One force, the positive, connects, and the other force, the negative, separates.
On the subatomic level, the two forces maintain electrons at a relatively steady distance from the nucleus and in so doing maintain the integrity of atoms. On the molecular level, the same two forces keep atoms connected with in molecules while maintaining themselves as distinct atoms. On the organic levels, the two forces connect cells and organs into organisms while maintaining the distinct identity of each cell and organ within the organism.
Likewise, within ecosystems, all species are interconnected and interdependent yet maintain their distinct identities. Species feed on one another, but only because this is the only way they can survive and how nature has made them. No ill will is involved in their relationships. When a lion eats a zebra, for example, it does not do this in order to harm the zebra. It does this because it’s hungry and cannot satiate itself otherwise. As soon as its stomach is full it stops eating, leaves the carcass for scavengers, and will not hunt again until its empty stomach forces it to look for prey once more.
Humans are the exception to nature’s rule. Almost everything we do stems from ill will toward others. Sustaining our bodies is almost effortless today, so we spend the bulk of our time, thoughts, and efforts consuming excessively and trying to assert ourselves as superior to others. We do not do this in order to survive, but in order to feed our pride and boost our self-confidence. In other words, we do this for our egos.
The balance maintained throughout nature is absent in humankind because we are almost completely devoid of the positive force. Just as the Torah said, “The inclination of a man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen 8:21).
Even worse, the more we try to satisfy our egoistic desires, the more they grow. The Midrash says about this: “A man does not leave the world with half his desire in his hand. Rather, if he has one hundred ,he wants to have two hundred, and if he has two hundred, he wants to have four hundred” (Kohelet Rabah 3:13). This is why we are never satisfied with what we have and want everything in excess: food, sex, money, power. And the more we have, the more we want. But even more than wanting to have more, we want to have more than others! In a paper titled, “Is more always better? A survey on positional concerns,” Harvard University professors David Hemenway and Sara Solnick found that people would prefer to receive an annual salary of $50,000 when others around them are receiving $25,000, than to earn $100,000 a year when others in their circle are earning $200,000.
When Competition Makes Us Ill
In and of itself, competition is not bad. It drives us to improve and maximize our potential. Yet, our insatiable desire for superiority makes the competition among us destructive. As I have just shown, we do not simply want to be better, but to be better than others! And if we can achieve this by stepping on the backs of others, it will make our success even sweeter.
While the ego prompts us to develop technology, medicine, and science, we do not use them to benefit humanity, but to cater to our greed. Pharmaceutical companies have little interest in people’s health; our money is their main concern. In consequence, they produce drugs that keep us alive but sick.
Likewise, food manufacturers have no interest in providing us with healthy food, but rather with food that will make us want to consume more of it. The excessive salt, sugar, and various additives mixed into processed foods aim to lure us back for more. Is it any wonder then that we are suffering from an epidemic of obesity?
The Tipping Point
There is a good reason why the ego is growing and why it pushes us to pursue power and control. We have become lords of the Earth because nature has built us to seek dominance and power. Moreover, nature has created us devoid of the positive force precisely because its absence would make us search for dominance. In our search we would find that the missing element in our lives is the positive force and we would learn to work with it consciously and effectively.
Whenever humanity reaches a peak in its egoistic development, it begins to feel the absence of the positive force as a means to balance its excessive egoism. This is when this force must present itself, balance out the egoism, and take humanity to the next level of development—where people truly understand the workings of nature and how to maintain a prosperous society for all.
The problem is that to the ego, the remedy of the positive force—which induces connection and collaboration among people rather than separation and competition—is a bitter pill to swallow. For the most part, people choose to maintain an attitude of “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die” (Isaiah 22:13). By the time they wake up, it is usually too late to change course.
The Birth of Anti-Semitism
As I noted in the previous column, and detailed in my New York Times essay, “Who Are You, People of Israel?,” the first person to discover the process of the growth of the ego and the need to introduce the positive force to balance it was Abraham. When he began to tell his Babylonian brethren that if they only rose above their hatred and united, all would be well, Nimrod, king of Babylon, exiled him and forced him to begin a journey that would eventually create the people of Israel. That struggle between the two was the birth of anti-Semitism.
Without the positive force,Babylon continued its gradual internal disintegration and was finally conquered and dissolved. Throughout history, not one empire escaped the fate of ruin by the ego. At the same time, the only nation that has survived numerous persecutions and extermination attempts was the nation that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob established—the Israeli nation—which planted in its heart the seed of unity. Even though for the past 2,000 years we have not been united and have suffered from internal hatred probably more than any other nation, that dormant seed of unity that we possess has kept us, and is keeping us still.
Illustrious author Mark Twain reflected on the survival of the Jews and the vanishing of other great nations in his famous essay, “Concerning the Jews.” “The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away,” wrote Twain. “The Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”
Under Moses, we became a nation once we pledged to be each other’s guarantors and unite “as one man with one heart.” Despite our growing egoism, we strove to love our neighbors as ourselves. That struggle forced us to improve and perfect our method of connection. It has planted the principle of unity above all hatred so deep within us that despite the fact that we were exiled from our land because of our unfounded hatred for each other, Jewish sages have always espoused unity above hatred as a means for survival and prosperity. Rav Kook wrote in that regard: “The great rule about the war of views, when each view comes to contradict another, is that we need not contradict it, but rather build above it, and thereby ascend” (Letters of the Raiah).
Pariahs through the Ages
Since that first confrontation between Abraham and Nimrod, we have been the world’s pariahs—welcomed at first, and banished at last. The nations feel that there is something different about Jews, some secret power, but the ego does not let them feel that that something is the ability to connect above hatred. Today, even we ourselves do not feel this.
Still, the more developed a nation becomes—through its egoistic drive—the more it needs the positive force to tame the egoism and prevent its otherwise inevitable collapse. And when the positive force fails to arrive, because we Jews have also fallen into mutual hatred, the nations instinctively blame us for their collapse and punish us.
We call this anti-Semitism, but in truth, there is no such thing. Anti-Semitism is only the nations’ gut feeling that the Jews have the key to happiness and that they are not sharing it. Though we ourselves have no idea what is the key or even that we have it, the world still feels that it is our fault that they are fighting and killing one another. Mel Gibson’s rant, “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” is actually an authentic expression of what most non-Jews feel, especially among the more developed, namely egoistic nations. It is so precisely because they are egoistic and therefore urgently need a cure for their illness. And they instinctively expect this from us.
There is simply no way to say this softly: If American Jewry does not provide today’s hyper egoistic American people with the method for uniting above the hatred, the American people will do to the Jews what the nations have always done to the Jews since Abraham’s time. And everything that Jews have helped the world develop—all the science and technology that make life easy and efficient—can and will be used against us.
What American Jewry must do today is connect above their mutual dislike and thereby serve as an example! The seed of connection lies within each and every one in our tribe. All we need to do is make an effort to connect, and it will spring back to life.
Connection is what made us a nation at the foot of Mt. Sinai, and what caused us to be tasked with being “a light unto nations,” an example of unity at a time of narcissistic darkness. The latent method of connection that Jews possess is the only thing that will stop anti-Semitism and reverse the disintegration of the American society. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to achieve.
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