As an Israeli, it is hard to speak of responsibility when emotions of terror and vengeance permeate every sensible corner still left in our minds. But precisely because I am so concerned for our people, I must look beyond the pain and describe what I see as our only way out. As a Jew who’s lost almost his entire family in the Holocaust, and who’s lived in Israel through wars and terror attacks, I feel compelled to speak out and not let the instinct of retribution take over.
The war we are at with the Arab world is not about territory. It is over a spiritual, universal task that we, Jews, must carry out. Before the establishment of the state of Israel, two great leaders, whose wisdom is now growing more evident than ever, predicted the current battle, and presented its solution. They knew that if we did not implement it we would find ourselves in deep trouble.
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In one of his letters, the Rav Kook wrote, “Every global turmoil comes essentially for Israel. We are called upon for a great and sacred duty, which we are to fulfill willingly and mindfully—to build ourselves and the entire ruined world along with us.”
In his book, Ain Ayah, Rav Kook elaborated on our duty: “When Israel arise … to give the entire world a new, corrected form [of brotherly love], not only Israel will rise, but the entire world. …At that time a new era will begin, without the filth of evil. Wickedness and uprising will be gone altogether, anger and sadness will not reign, and concern for the world’s balance will be unheard of. At that time violence will disappear, and the sword will lose its prominence and will be utterly condemned.”
A contemporary of Rav Kook was another great man who was troubled by the nation’s fate. Most of the time, he was busy writing his commentary on The Book of Zohar, which is now regarded as the most elaborate and accurate commentary ever put on paper. But Rav Yehuda Ashlag—now known as Baal HaSulam, after his Sulam (ladder) commentary— also wrote extensively about the fate of the Jewish people and how we can establish a sustainable and thriving country.
In his essay, “Mutual Guarantee, ” Baal HaSulam stated, “It is incumbent upon the Israeli nation … to qualify itself and the entire world to take upon itself the sublime work of love of others.” Later in the article he added, “The Israeli nation was established as a conduit through which sparks of purification will flow on to the entire human race throughout the world.”
When Baal HaSulam completed his Sulam commentary, he celebrated the occasion with his students at a very symbolic location: Idra Zuta, the cave where Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his disciples wrote The Zohar. But what concerned Baal HaSulam was not the tremendous feat he had achieved. He was preoccupied with the future of the state of Israel. He said that we have been given the land, but “we have not received the land into our hands.” What he meant was that we have not begun to carry out the task for which we were given the land—uniting ourselves and projecting that unity to the world, as described above.
Moreover, Baal HaSulam chose to end his introduction to The Zohar with a stark warning, detailed over several pages, that Israel must be a role model to the world, or the horrors of the Holocaust will repeat themselves.
I wish it were easier, but the world will not leave us in peace until we muster the courage to unite, truly, regardless of circumstances, but sincerely from the bottom of our hearts. These two great men have given us this message to encourage us to do just that. They knew that Israel’s wars are not won with arms, but with spirits. If we embrace the spirit of our nation—the spirit of “love your neighbor as yourself, ” and “that which you hate do not do unto others”—we will be the strongest nation on earth. Not because we will defeat our enemies, but because we won’t have any.
I call upon all Jews whose heart is aching at the state of our nation to unite “as one man with one heart.” Let us show the world a model of unity that all of humanity can and wants to embrace. If we unite, the world will see the light at the end of the tunnel of hatred into which we have stumbled, and we will emerge into a bright and promising tomorrow.