This coming Monday at 7:30 pm, I will be speaking at the Rego Park Jewish Center in Queens, New York, about what makes people single out Jews, and what can counter anti-Semitism’s sharp rise. As we are approaching the ninth of Av, and in light of the rising worldwide anti-Semitism, the mind keeps drifting toward that perennial question of the persecution of the Jews.
Being a scientist by training, I tend to search for causes and explanations, rather than to lament even the most tragic events. This was also my approach when I began to study Kabbalah, known as the “internality of the Torah.”
But studying it, I discovered what to me was nothing short of a revolution. I learned that at its core, Judaism treats every event and situation with a very purposeful approach. It doesn’t mourn or regret, but examines events and situations from the perspective of their necessity for our general correction.
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And by correction, I am not referring to our superficial manners, but to the way we relate and feel toward each another. The only correction required of us, so I have learned is to change our attitudes to one another from exploitation and self-centeredness to collaboration and connection. As we know, “the inclination in a man’s heart is evil from his youth.” We are required to change it into the tenet that that is the end goal of Judaism: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Our sages taught us that the absence of this quality brought upon us a two millennia exile. They have also been telling us that if we restore our love of others, all will be well not only for the Jews, but for the entire world.
Luminaries such as Rav Kook and Rav Yehuda Ashlag warned years in advance that our lack of accord and solidarity would be disastrous to the Jews in Europe, but at the time we were too vain to listen. In my most recent book on the topic, Like a Bundle of Reeds: why unity and mutual guarantee are today’s call of the hour, I referenced numerous sages and Jewish leaders who pleaded with our nation to unite. Today, in light of cold front amassing in the West, I think it is more pertinent than ever that we heed that call and unite above all our discords.
I chose to title my lecture, “From Darkness to Light, ” because I am a firm believer in the power of our nation to overcome adversities. I have learned that the painful events that our nation experiences have but one purpose—to urge us to unite. Redemption is a big word, but if you detail what it means, you are left once more with our ancient motto, which is so desperately needed today: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Put simply, redemption is the ability to love others. This is the only correction we are required to do.
The clouds of anti-Semitism are but a clarion, a herald trumpeting that we should stand as one and state our commitment to unity above all differences. At the foot of Mt. Sinai we emerged as a nation when we abandoned our squabbles and united “as one man with one heart.” By that declaration, we “recruited” the power of unity to stand against the power of egoism.
Now, again, we are facing a mountain of hatred toward us. As then, so now, the solution lies in our unity, in our mutual guarantee. We need not change our ways of life. We simply need to state aloud, and feel within, that our unity is more important to us than our differences.