Lately, it seems as though the more we talk about Jewish unity, the more we feel the lack of it. Unity has been a hallmark of our nation since Moses united us at the foot of Mt. Sinai and we pledged to be “as one man with one heart.” But if you look at our history, it appears that we have been more preoccupied with internal struggles than with uniting our ranks.
Even today, in the face of growing worldwide anti-Semitism, which is often “thinly veiled as criticism of Israel, ” as described by retiring head of the ADL, Abraham Foxman, we cannot find a way to unite and face the challenge as one. The result is that as boycotters and warmongers amass and strengthen, we are busy bickering and blaming each other for our woes.
This is the “unity paradox, ” where we know that our strength lies in our unity, but the more our indicters pressure us, the more we grow apart. Like any paradox, the unity paradox cannot be solved on the same level of thinking that engendered it. To resolve it, we need to rise to a new level of thinking and feeling toward each other.
This may seem like a tall order, but it becomes much simpler when we remember our common origin. When we became a nation, we were also given the task to be a light for the (rest of the) nations.
But the only light that we had had back then was unity. We were on the run, homeless and powerless. The only thing we had going for us was our unity, whose ultimate state we express in the verse, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Unity managed to carry us through many trials and tribulations, and its crumbling marked the start of a two millennia exile. Yet, if there is one thing that the nations have readily adopted from us, though they have yet to implement it, that something is that motto: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Deep down, all human beings sense that for all the difficulty in realizing it, this verse points to the key to happiness, prosperity, and security in life.
As its inadvertent progenitors, it is now, just as it’s always been, our task to be a role model of unity and in so doing show the world how this can be done. Until we carry it out—specifically in order to display its practicality—the world will continue to accuse us of causing war, and every other type of misfortune, just as is happening in the UN today.
The world is not accusing us because we are deliberately inflaming war, but because we have the key to peace and quiet, even if unconsciously, yet we aren’t sharing it. To do that, we must become aware of it, practice it, and demonstrate how this is done.
This is the solution to the unity paradox. If we try to unite simply for the sake of uniting, without doing it to be an example of unity for the world, we will not succeed. Without a good enough reason to rise above self-interest, we will succumb to our usual backbiting and the nations will keep blaming us for their worsening troubles. But if we remember that our lives have a worthy purpose, one that requires unity as a role model for the world to see, then we have every reason to succeed.
When we achieve this, the unity paradox will have been solved because we will have risen above the pressures of our current state into a state of unity. We will have done so not for ourselves, but for the world. Deep down we will still be craving self-gratification, but atop it we will be able to merge the nation into a single entity.
In today’s ultra-narcissistic world, this type of unity is the only formula that can work. We cannot, nor need to suppress our egos. All we need is to find a way to unite above the ego, and thus contribute our uniqueness to the common good. It is a unique formula that until today only the Jews have implemented successfully, even if only two millennia ago. Now we must rekindle this ability and share it.
When we do, we will undoubtedly find that from the very beginning, the pressure from the world came only to prompt us to unite at this higher level. We will see that we might have tried another thousand years to come together on our current level, and it would never work. However, as soon as we rise to the higher one, where we do not unite for ourselves but for the world, our lives will be transformed at once.