Entries in the 'New Publications' Category

Haaretz: “A Few Words To The President”

In my regular column in Haaretz, my new article: “A Few Words to the President

President Trump, I wish you a successful visit to Israel, but your success in office depends on what you do back home.

Dear Mr. President:

Welcome to Israel.

While there is naturally a lot of hype surrounding your visit to Israel, I believe that your supporters at home are eager to see you putting America first. In my view, focusing on home affairs rather than on foreign affairs is key to making your term in office meaningful and effective. One American citizen put it very clearly on “Fox News Insider”: “Remember, the people that elected you are still strongly behind you. We have your back; move forward. Do the things you promised you would do, and we’re all going to be great together.”

Joblessness in America is a constant concern, as tens of millions are living on various forms of government benefits. Such permanent inactivity is a recipe for trouble. Prolonged idleness creates crime, violence, substance abuse, and can ravage entire communities. Additionally, solidarity among Americans is at an all-time low as politics creates factions and frictions within society that impede every effort for improvement. At times, it seems as though the very nationhood of the American people is at risk.

Such challenges require innovative thinking and bold leadership. In my view, America needs a nationwide program to strengthen communities and deepen the solidarity among the American people. The program would consist of two interdependent elements that together will guarantee both the livelihood of all Americans and their national solidarity.

To guarantee people’s livelihoods, some sort of Universal Basic Income (UBI) is required in this program. However, it must not be left at that. A permanent income that does not require commitment on the part of the beneficiaries will render people inept for work and will inhibit their ability to foster healthy social ties. This will turn them into hazards to society.

Therefore, reception of UBI benefits must be contingent upon partaking in courses and workshops conducted under specific rules designed to invoke trust, connection, and reciprocity. These workshops are part of a method called Integral Education (IE), which has proven itself successful numerous times over many years, and in countless places around the world, including the US, Europe, Israel, and Russia.

IE does not restrict itself to workshops. It also provides a package of practical tools for handling emotional and social crises, and includes learning about the history of the country, state, and city where people live, so as to make participants feel connected to their local neighborhoods and to the US society as a whole. IE makes people feel that solidarity and a sense of community create more value for them than isolation and alienation.

IE can be provided to millions of people online at minimal cost. People can participate from home or at public venues such as community centers. While facilitators will still be required in classrooms, professional instruction can be given online by a handful of trained professionals from one central location.

The decrease in violence and crime, and the increase in national cohesion and positive social engagement following the IE program will drastically reduce crime and violence levels, and will slash the prevalence of substance abuse. These transformations will save vast amounts of government and municipal resources, making the IE program exceptionally lucrative.

Beyond the economic value, IE transforms communities by creating an ambience of friendliness, trust, mutual responsibility, and strong engagement in pro-social activities.

Mr. President, as a pragmatic individual, I believe you should focus on America and do what is best for the American society, as you have clearly stated in your election campaign. Implementing a nationwide IE program will turn America into a role model of social stability and national solidarity. Or, to use your words, it will “Make America great again.”

With best wishes for a successful visit and a safe return home,

Michael Laitman
[207265]

JPost: “A Memo To President Trump“

The Jerusalem Post published my new article “A Memo To President Trump

President Trump, I wish you a pleasant visit to Israel. Still, in my view, your success in office depends on an effective implementation of the America First policy.

Dear Mr. President:

Welcome to Israel.

The Israeli public awaits your arrival with great anticipation, just as your supporters back home are eager to see the fulfillment of your America First policy. For this reason, I truly believe that turning the attention to America is the key to making your term in office a success.

You know better than anyone that joblessness in American society is a constant concern, as tens of millions are still living on various forms of government benefits. Such permanent inactivity is a recipe for trouble. Prolonged idleness creates crime, violence, substance abuse, and can ravage entire communities. On the national level, the sense of solidarity among Americans is at an all-time low. As politics creates factions and frictions within society that impede every effort for improvement, it seems as though the very nationhood of the American people is at risk.

To combat these challenges, I recommend the introduction of a nationwide program to strengthen communities and deepen the solidarity among the American people. The program consists of two interdependent elements that together will guarantee both the livelihood of all Americans and their national solidarity.

Because it is necessary to guarantee people’s livelihoods, some sort of Universal Basic Income (UBI) is required in this program. However, if we leave it at that, a permanent income that does not require any commitment from the beneficiaries will “kill” people’s ability to work and to connect with others, and will turn them into hazards to society.

For this reason, reception of UBI benefits must be contingent upon partaking in courses and workshops conducted under specific rules designed to invoke in participants feelings of connection, trust, and reciprocity. These workshops are part of a method called Integral Education (IE), which has proven itself successful numerous times over many years, and in countless places around the world, including the US, Europe, Israel, and Russia.

Besides workshops, IE provides practical tools for handling emotional and social crises, and includes learning about the history of the country, state, and city where people live, so as to make them feel connected to their local neighborhoods and to the US society as a whole. But most important, this method makes people feel that solidarity and a sense of community create more value for them than isolation and alienation.

Today’s technologies enable providing IE to millions of people online at minimal cost. People can participate from home or at public venues such as community centers. While facilitators will still be required in classrooms, professional instruction can be given online by a handful of trained professionals from one central location.

The decrease in violence and crime, and the increase in national cohesion and positive social engagement will drastically reduce crime and violence levels, and will slash the prevalence of substance abuse. These changes will save vast amounts of government and municipal resources, making the IE program exceptionally lucrative.

Beyond the economic value, IE will transform communities, creating an ambience of friendliness, trust, comprehension of social responsibility, and strong engagement in pro-social activities.

Mr. President, as you are a pragmatic individual, I think you should focus on America first and do what is best for the American society, as you have clearly stated since the onset of your presidency. If you implement a nationwide IE program, America will undoubtedly become a role model of social stability and national solidarity. Or, to use your words, it will “Make America great again.”

With best wishes,
Michael Laitman
[207101]

Articles In The Newspaper Yediot America (News Of America)

The newspaper Yediot America (News of America), published in America in Hebrew, published my new articles.

[206502]

Jewish Business News: “The Fundamental Flaw Behind The Cyber Attack“

In my regular column in Jewish Business News, my new article: “The Fundamental Flaw Behind The Cyber Attack

The best way to secure cyberspace has nothing to do with computer technology and everything to do with human nature.

The massive cyber-attack the world has been under for several days now is a serious wakeup call for all of us. It is still unclear how many facilities and individuals have been affected and to what extent, but this is clearly the most widespread ransomware attack in history.

For the most part, the $300 US ransom those affected were required to pay were more symbolic than actual financial damages. Yet, the extent and speed of the spread should teach us several things: 1) no agency is hack-proof, not even the National Security Association (NSA), whose stolen software, WannaCry, is used in this ransomware; 2) today, inflicting widespread damage requires only a computer geek with plenty of ill-will; 3) there is no way to completely guard from such attacks.

Incomprehensible Capability to Harm

Consider this scenario: A terrorist hacker simultaneously infiltrates the computer system of several large hospitals in Iran and installs malicious software. The malware changes the prescriptions of drugs to thousands of patients causing a mass poisoning that kills hundreds of patients. The malware is built in such a way that it points to Israel as the perpetrator. How Iran would retaliate is anyone’s guess but the risk of starting an all-out war is evident.

Consider another scenario: A hacker breaks into the navigation system of a passenger jet, causing it to crash into a crowded residential area. With today’s hacking capabilities, a 9/11 type scenario would not require terrorists to hijack planes. They could simply hijack their systems in midair and cause the same damage without risking themselves.

Hacking can also hit us on a very personal level. Imagine that one morning you wake up to find that your bank account with all your savings has been emptied by what seems like a legal withdrawal. When you call the bank, they tell you that you made the transaction; it is even documented in their computers.

Train derailments, uncooling of nuclear reactors, traffic lights turning green all at the same time, drugs and dosages being changed in hospitals so as to cause harm, records of government decisions deleted or changed… In an age when everything is controlled by computer networks, anything can be hacked and sabotaged. We should know: No firewall or anti-malware is hack-proof.

Machines Control Us, but Unhinged Narcissists Control Them

Globalization and the internet provide endless opportunities for happiness. Think of all the people you can meet on Facebook, all the places and things you can see on Instagram, and all the products you can buy at huge discounts on eBay. Also, today there is no need to go to stores when you can order literally everything online.

But instead of enjoying ourselves, exploiting these possibilities for pleasure, these developments only increase our loneliness and pain. Social media has become a replacement for real friendship, and people use it to broadcast the most sickening acts that humans can do to one another. According to CNN, Facebook is planning to hire thousands of people to help review users’ posts following multiple incidents of people sharing videos of suicide and murder. The WannaCry ransomware has demonstrated that instead of benefitting from our interconnectedness, we fear it.

We have turned over control to virtual machines, but unrestrained narcissists control these machines and use them to manipulate and exploit us. The virtual arena not only reflects our ruthless, callous nature, it even emphasizes it because the relative anonymity of the virtual realm allows us to show our true, pitiless hearts. If anything good is to come out of the online realm we have developed, it is the recognition of evil—the acknowledgement that our nature is evil to the core, and without taming our very nature, we can forget about peace or peace of mind.

An Anti-Malware for the Ego

There is a way to tame the ego, if we are only willing to open our minds and hearts to it. It is thousands of years old and stems directly from the cradle of civilization. The progenitor of the method is Abraham, father of Isaac, Ishmael, and subsequently all Abrahamic religions, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

In the days of Abraham, his town of Ur of the Chaldeans—a bustling city in the Babylonian Empire—was struggling with a similar problem to ours: excessive egoism was destroying the social order. Some sources, such as Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer (Chapters of Rabbi Eliezer), detail the extent of the enmity among the ancient Babylonians. The book writes that at some point, the builders of the Tower of Babel became so hateful toward each other that they hammered their plowshares into swords and their pruning hooks into spears, so to speak, and slaughtered one another. Naturally, the building of the tower was never completed.

When Abraham saw the hatred among his townspeople, he reflected on this day and night, writes Maimonides in Mishneh Torah (Chapter 1). Maimonides also writes that Abraham discovered that there is only one, uniform force in the world, which always manifests through opposites: heat and cold, expansion and contraction, giving and receiving, life and death, etc.

Abraham also discovered that in nature, everything is harmonious and balanced because the two opposites manifest equally. Yet, in humans, the negative manifestations have such dominance in society that the positive ones barely show. This is why the Torah writes, “The inclination of a man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21).

Additionally, the sage from Babylon realized that forcefully suppressing the ego was hopeless. His father, Terah, was no ordinary man. The Midrash (Beresheet Rabbah) tells us that Terah was a high-ranking priest in the Babylonian Empire, who built and sold icons for a living and had contact with the Babylonian king, Nimrod. Abraham, who grew up with him and stood in for him at the shop, knew about the ways the Babylonians dealt with their problems and recognized their futility.

Therefore, instead of fighting with the ego head on, Abraham suggested something so radically different that to this day it is a novel approach. He said, “If you can’t suppress your hatred, use it as a tool to increase your love for others, and that way cover your hatred with love.” Several generations later, King Solomon capped Abraham’s method with his adage, “Hate stirs strife, and love covers all crimes” (Proverbs 10:12).

How Hate Increases Love (if used correctly)

Abraham’s idea was revolutionary, but implementing it was quite easy: Every time the ego increases and people become more hateful toward each other, use this enmity as an indication that it’s time to increase unity. When there is no hatred, people mind their own business and have no need to unite. They get along but they are basically indifferent to each other. But when hatred manifests among them, they can either part ways or strengthen their unity and brotherhood to match the increased hatred. The result of such work on unity is that brotherhood among people increases proportionally to the intensification of the hatred.

Think of it this way: If you build a house where there are hardly any winds, you do not need to make the walls exceptionally strong. But if you build it in an area that is prone to hurricanes and fierce storms, you must build it that much stronger in order to withstand the weather. As a result, your house would be much stronger.

Abraham realized that the intensifying hatred was therefore an opportunity to restore the balance between positive and negative that exists in nature but is absent in humans. Moreover, the conscious effort to unite made people aware of nature’s modus operandi and granted them wisdom that they could not otherwise acquire.

With this knowledge, Abraham’s descendants built the social system by which the ancient Hebrews were arranged. That system was so perfect, just, and balanced, that it became the basis of human justice to this day. Historian Paul Johnson wrote in the prologue to his book A History of the Jews: “No people has ever insisted more firmly than the Jews that history has a purpose and humanity a destiny. At a very early stage in their collective existence, they believed they had detected a divine scheme for the human race, of which their own society was to be a pilot.” Even the most notorious anti-Semite in American history, Henry Ford, noticed the importance of the ancient society of the Hebrews to humankind. In his book The International Jew—the World’s Foremost Problem, Ford wrote, “Modern reformers, who are constructing model social systems, would do well to look into the social system under which the early Jews were organized.”

Restoring Abraham’s Method

When Abraham’s descendants and followers achieved a sufficient level of unity, they were declared a nation, after committing to unite “as one man with one heart.” For more than a thousand years, they struggled with their growing egos and overcame them, all along improving their method of unity above hatred.

Yet, 2,000 years ago, the Jews succumbed to their egos. Awash with unfounded hatred, they helped the Romans overtake the Land of Israel and were exiled and dispersed. But worst of all, they have forgotten the true meaning of Judaism—to exalt love over hatred, to love your neighbor as yourself.

Today’s world has become worse than Abraham’s Babylon. We are not only killing one another like the builders of the Tower of Babel, we relish our selfishness and take pride in our narcissism. We want more of everything not because we need more, but because we need to have more than others! The need for superiority is the sovereign of our hearts. And as we are fighting one another, we are destroying ourselves just as cancer destroys the healthy cells around it until it kills its host and at the same time itself.

Despite its widespread damage, the WannaCry ransomware is but a tiny sample of the harm the human ego can inflict. It is a warning sign that no one is protected. All of humanity is in this together. The more humanity becomes technically interdependent, without correcting our attitude toward each other, the more suffering our interconnectedness will cause us.

We have failed at suppressing our egos, so now we must learn how to use them to increase our unity, just as Abraham did almost four millennia ago. This may seem like a formidable task, but the history of the Jews proves otherwise. If we rise above our cynicism and resignation, we will achieve such powerful solidarity and mutual concern that our unity will dwarf even that of our ancestors.

In the process, we, too, like Abraham, will reveal the unity that drives all of nature into harmony. We will find that meaning in hatred can be found only when it is turned into love of others, and that love of others does not exist unless through our efforts to unite above our hatred. If we choose to meet the challenge, we will emerge united and triumphant over our egos. If we capitulate, we will be tormented beyond belief.
[207023]

Haaretz: “The Fundamental Flaw Behind the Cyber Attack”

In my regular column in Haaretz, my new article: “The Fundamental Flaw Behind the Cyber Attack

The best way to secure cyberspace has nothing to do with computer technology and everything to do with human nature.

The massive cyber-attack the world has been under for several days now is a serious wakeup call for all of us. It is still unclear how many facilities and individuals have been affected and to what extent, but this is clearly the most widespread ransomware attack in history.

For the most part, the $300 US ransom those affected were required to pay were more symbolic than actual financial damages. Yet, the extent and speed of the spread should teach us several things: 1) no agency is hack-proof, not even the National Security Association (NSA), whose stolen software, WannaCry, is used in this ransomware; 2) today, inflicting widespread damage requires only a computer geek with plenty of ill-will; 3) there is no way to completely guard from such attacks.

Incomprehensible Capability to Harm

Consider this scenario: A terrorist hacker simultaneously infiltrates the computer system of several large hospitals in Iran and installs malicious software. The malware changes the prescriptions of drugs to thousands of patients causing a mass poisoning that kills hundreds of patients. The malware is built in such a way that it points to Israel as the perpetrator. How Iran would retaliate is anyone’s guess but the risk of starting an all-out war is evident.

Consider another scenario: A hacker breaks into the navigation system of a passenger jet, causing it to crash into a crowded residential area. With today’s hacking capabilities, a 9/11 type scenario would not require terrorists to hijack planes. They could simply hijack their systems in midair and cause the same damage without risking themselves.

Hacking can also hit us on a very personal level. Imagine that one morning you wake up to find that your bank account with all your savings has been emptied by what seems like a legal withdrawal. When you call the bank, they tell you that you made the transaction; it is even documented in their computers.

Train derailments, uncooling of nuclear reactors, traffic lights turning green all at the same time, drugs and dosages being changed in hospitals so as to cause harm, records of government decisions deleted or changed… In an age when everything is controlled by computer networks, anything can be hacked and sabotaged. We should know: No firewall or anti-malware is hack-proof.

Machines Control Us, but Unhinged Narcissists Control Them

Globalization and the internet provide endless opportunities for happiness. Think of all the people you can meet on Facebook, all the places and things you can see on Instagram, and all the products you can buy at huge discounts on eBay. Also, today there is no need to go to stores when you can order literally everything online.

But instead of enjoying ourselves, exploiting these possibilities for pleasure, these developments only increase our loneliness and pain. Social media has become a replacement for real friendship, and people use it to broadcast the most sickening acts that humans can do to one another. According to CNN, Facebook is planning to hire thousands of people to help review users’ posts following multiple incidents of people sharing videos of suicide and murder. The WannaCry ransomware has demonstrated that instead of benefitting from our interconnectedness, we fear it.

We have turned over control to virtual machines, but unrestrained narcissists control these machines and use them to manipulate and exploit us. The virtual arena not only reflects our ruthless, callous nature, it even emphasizes it because the relative anonymity of the virtual realm allows us to show our true, pitiless hearts. If anything good is to come out of the online realm we have developed, it is the recognition of evil—the acknowledgement that our nature is evil to the core, and without taming our very nature, we can forget about peace or peace of mind.

An Anti-Malware for the Ego

There is a way to tame the ego, if we are only willing to open our minds and hearts to it. It is thousands of years old and stems directly from the cradle of civilization. The progenitor of the method is Abraham, father of Isaac, Ishmael, and subsequently all Abrahamic religions, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

In the days of Abraham, his town of Ur of the Chaldeans—a bustling city in the Babylonian Empire—was struggling with a similar problem to ours: excessive egoism was destroying the social order. Some sources, such as Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer (Chapters of Rabbi Eliezer), detail the extent of the enmity among the ancient Babylonians. The book writes that at some point, the builders of the Tower of Babel became so hateful toward each other that they hammered their plowshares into swords and their pruning hooks into spears, so to speak, and slaughtered one another. Naturally, the building of the tower was never completed.

When Abraham saw the hatred among his townspeople, he reflected on this day and night, writes Maimonides in Mishneh Torah (Chapter 1). Maimonides also writes that Abraham discovered that there is only one, uniform force in the world, which always manifests through opposites: heat and cold, expansion and contraction, giving and receiving, life and death, etc.

Abraham also discovered that in nature, everything is harmonious and balanced because the two opposites manifest equally. Yet, in humans, the negative manifestations have such dominance in society that the positive ones barely show. This is why the Torah writes, “The inclination of a man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21).

Additionally, the sage from Babylon realized that forcefully suppressing the ego was hopeless. His father, Terah, was no ordinary man. The Midrash (Beresheet Rabbah) tells us that Terah was a high-ranking priest in the Babylonian Empire, who built and sold icons for a living and had contact with the Babylonian king, Nimrod. Abraham, who grew up with him and stood in for him at the shop, knew about the ways the Babylonians dealt with their problems and recognized their futility.

Therefore, instead of fighting with the ego head on, Abraham suggested something so radically different that to this day it is a novel approach. He said, “If you can’t suppress your hatred, use it as a tool to increase your love for others, and that way cover your hatred with love.” Several generations later, King Solomon capped Abraham’s method with his adage, “Hate stirs strife, and love covers all crimes” (Proverbs 10:12).

How Hate Increases Love (if used correctly)

Abraham’s idea was revolutionary, but implementing it was quite easy: Every time the ego increases and people become more hateful toward each other, use this enmity as an indication that it’s time to increase unity. When there is no hatred, people mind their own business and have no need to unite. They get along but they are basically indifferent to each other. But when hatred manifests among them, they can either part ways or strengthen their unity and brotherhood to match the increased hatred. The result of such work on unity is that brotherhood among people increases proportionally to the intensification of the hatred.

Think of it this way: If you build a house where there are hardly any winds, you do not need to make the walls exceptionally strong. But if you build it in an area that is prone to hurricanes and fierce storms, you must build it that much stronger in order to withstand the weather. As a result, your house would be much stronger.

Abraham realized that the intensifying hatred was therefore an opportunity to restore the balance between positive and negative that exists in nature but is absent in humans. Moreover, the conscious effort to unite made people aware of nature’s modus operandi and granted them wisdom that they could not otherwise acquire.

With this knowledge, Abraham’s descendants built the social system by which the ancient Hebrews were arranged. That system was so perfect, just, and balanced, that it became the basis of human justice to this day. Historian Paul Johnson wrote in the prologue to his book A History of the Jews: “No people has ever insisted more firmly than the Jews that history has a purpose and humanity a destiny. At a very early stage in their collective existence, they believed they had detected a divine scheme for the human race, of which their own society was to be a pilot.” Even the most notorious anti-Semite in American history, Henry Ford, noticed the importance of the ancient society of the Hebrews to humankind. In his book The International Jew—the World’s Foremost Problem, Ford wrote, “Modern reformers, who are constructing model social systems, would do well to look into the social system under which the early Jews were organized.”

Restoring Abraham’s Method

When Abraham’s descendants and followers achieved a sufficient level of unity, they were declared a nation, after committing to unite “as one man with one heart.” For more than a thousand years, they struggled with their growing egos and overcame them, all along improving their method of unity above hatred.

Yet, 2,000 years ago, the Jews succumbed to their egos. Awash with unfounded hatred, they helped the Romans overtake the Land of Israel and were exiled and dispersed. But worst of all, they have forgotten the true meaning of Judaism—to exalt love over hatred, to love your neighbor as yourself.

Today’s world has become worse than Abraham’s Babylon. We are not only killing one another like the builders of the Tower of Babel, we relish our selfishness and take pride in our narcissism. We want more of everything not because we need more, but because we need to have more than others! The need for superiority is the sovereign of our hearts. And as we are fighting one another, we are destroying ourselves just as cancer destroys the healthy cells around it until it kills its host and at the same time itself.

Despite its widespread damage, the WannaCry ransomware is but a tiny sample of the harm the human ego can inflict. It is a warning sign that no one is protected. All of humanity is in this together. The more humanity becomes technically interdependent, without correcting our attitude toward each other, the more suffering our interconnectedness will cause us.

We have failed at suppressing our egos, so now we must learn how to use them to increase our unity, just as Abraham did almost four millennia ago. This may seem like a formidable task, but the history of the Jews proves otherwise. If we rise above our cynicism and resignation, we will achieve such powerful solidarity and mutual concern that our unity will dwarf even that of our ancestors.

In the process, we, too, like Abraham, will reveal the unity that drives all of nature into harmony. We will find that meaning in hatred can be found only when it is turned into love of others, and that love of others does not exist unless through our efforts to unite above our hatred. If we choose to meet the challenge, we will emerge united and triumphant over our egos. If we capitulate, we will be tormented beyond belief.
[207020]

Haaretz: “The Fire of Hatred, the Fire of Love”

In my regular column in Haaretz, my new article: “The Fire of Hatred, the Fire of Love

Lag BaOmer marks the emergence of the light of unity in The Book of Zohar. It is a call to unite “as one man with one heart.”

Every year there is the “Lag BaOmer craze,” when children and youth throughout the country collect any piece of wood they can lay their hands on, and not always wood that was meant to be trashed, and pile them up into huge mounds days before the festival. On Lag BaOmer night, the 33rd day of the omer count, which begins on the first day of Passover and ends in Shavuot, they set them all on fire.

Aside from the fires, on Lag BaOmer, tens of thousands of people perform a pilgrimage of sorts up to the grave of the author of The Book of Zohar, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, to pray and to celebrate the writing of this seminal book of the hidden wisdom, the wisdom of truth, also known as “the wisdom of Kabbalah.”

This may not be the most fundamental festival on the Jewish calendar, but like all Jewish festive days, Lag BaOmer marks a profound point in our evolution as a nation, and in our individual spiritual development.

In a Few Words

Around this time of the year, some 20 centuries ago, all but five of Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students fell ill and died. According to the Talmud (Yevamot 62b), this happened to them because they did not follow Rabbi Akiva’s most fundamental law, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The five students who survived stayed healthy because they followed their teacher’s guidance and stuck to the principle of love of others.

Of these five students, two in particular passed on their teacher’s tenets: Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, chief redactor and editor of the Mishnah, and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi), author of The Book of Zohar.

Thirteen Years in Hiding

Rashbi lived and taught in the period following the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire (circa 132–136 CE). He was among the most prominent dissidents against the Roman rule in the Land of Israel. The Roman emperor, Hadrian, sent men to find Rashbi and kill him.

According to legend, Rashbi and his son, Rabbi Elazar, hid in a cave in the Galilee for 13 years eating only carobs from a nearby tree and drinking water from a nearby spring. During that time, they delved into the wisdom of the hidden, the wisdom of Kabbalah, and revealed the secrets of creation. Through their efforts, they grasped nature’s deepest levels and perceived the underlying unity at the basis of existence.

After 13 years, Rashbi heard about the death of Emperor Hadrian and emerged from the cave. With eight more students, Rashbi and his son went into another cave in the Galilee, where he taught them the secrets of Torah he had revealed. With the help of his students, Rashbi wrote The Book of Zohar—an interpretation of the Pentateuch, parts of the Prophets and the Writings (Hagiographa), and the seminal book in the wisdom of Kabbalah.

Contrary to popular belief, The Book of Zohar does not talk about mystical creatures and esoteric powers, but rather describes the natural relationships that exist among all people. It writes about us—the process we go through as we develop our spirituality through our relations with other people.

Through stories and allegories, Rashbi explains how we should construct our relationships correctly through love of others, and how love of others will bring peace to the entire world. In the portion, Aharei Mot, the book writes, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is when brothers sit together. These are the friends as they sit together, at first, they seem like people at war, wishing to kill one another. Then, they return to being in brotherly love. Henceforth, you will also not part … and by your merit there will be peace in the world.”

The brothers and friends that The Zohar mentions are regular people, much like you and me, but they have connected around one goal: the attainment of that underlying unity at the basis of existence that we mentioned earlier. By acknowledging their mutual hatred, as the quote above describes, and through their subsequent exertions to rise above it and unite, Rashbi and his students connected to that force of unity and established among them profound brotherly love. Their unity was so intense that even The Zohar fails to describe it and simply refers to it as “a burning flame of love” or “the light of The Zohar.”

Why the Fire

The omer count begins on the first day of Passover, and Lag BaOmer happens on the 33rd day of the count. On that day, Rashbi passed away, which is why it is also the day when The Book of Zohar was sealed and the wisdom of Kabbalah was given to the world.

We light fires on Lag BaOmer to symbolize the great light that appeared in our world when The Zohar was signed and delivered to humanity—a light that can establish among us connections of love.

In the Labyrinth

In recent decades, our egos have driven our world to the brink of collapse. This is the exact same malady that consumed Rabbi Akiva’s students. Just as the Temple was ruined and the students died only because of unfounded hatred among them, today’s alienation and aggression in society are wreaking havoc the world over.

To find our way out of the labyrinth, we must use the method of connection and unity that our ancestors used 20 centuries ago. If we implement it and connect above our isolation and mutual distrust, we will light up the same great flame that burned before and the light of The Zohar will be revealed.

My teacher, Rav Baruch Shalom Ashlag (RABASH), wrote, “In each one there is a spark of love of others. However, the spark cannot ignite the light of love. Therefore, by bonding together, the sparks becomes a big flame” (The Writings of RABASH, vol. 2, “What Is the Degree One Should Achieve”).

Selfish, But Not Hopeless

Today, it is becoming clear that our society requires a fundamental and sustainable solution to the problems we face. We must establish among us the great rule of the Torah: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” However, this will happen only if we choose together to install it among us. We are indeed selfish to the core and our “inclination is evil from our youth,” as the Torah tells us. Yet, even a journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step. Now we must take that step and begin to march on a new path—toward unity, connection, and brotherhood.

Lag BaOmer celebrates the appearance of the immense light of unity in our world through The Book of Zohar. It is a great opportunity for us to begin this journey toward mutual responsibility, toward being “as one man with one heart,” toward being what the nation of Israel is all about—love of others—and toward sharing that light with the nations, just as we have been commanded to be, “a light unto nations.”
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JPost: “The Israeli Camfire“

The Jerusalem Post published my new article “The Israeli Camfire

Lag Ba’omer celebrates the emergence of the immense light of unity through ‘The Book of Zohar.’ It is a calling for us to begin this journey toward being “as one man with one heart.”

Once a year, children and youth all over Israel collect any piece of wood they can lay their hands on and pile them up into huge heaps, which they set on fire on Lag Ba’omer night, the 33rd day of the omer count, which begins on the first day of Passover and ends on Shavuot. On that day, tens of thousands of people flock to the grave of the author of The Book of Zohar, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, to pray and to celebrate the writing of this seminal book of the wisdom of truth, also known as “the wisdom of Kabbalah.”

Lag Ba’omer is not regarded among the most fundamental festivals in Judaism, but like all Jewish festive days, it marks a profound point in our evolution as a nation and in the spiritual development of each and every one of us.
Lag Ba’omer in a Nutshell

Some 20 centuries ago, precisely at this time of the year, between Passover and Shavuot, Rabbi Akiva was teaching his 24,000 students. But according to the Talmud (Yevamot 62b), because these students did not follow Rabbi Akiva’s most fundamental law, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” they all died in a plague that struck them. Only five students remained because they followed their teacher’s guidance and stuck to the principle of love of others.

Of these five students, two in particular passed on their teacher’s tenet—Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi, chief redactor and editor of the Mishnah, and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi), author of The Book of Zohar.

Hidden in a Cave

In the period following the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire (circa 132–136 CE), Rashbi was among the most prominent dissidents against the Roman rule in the Land of Israel. The Roman emperor, Hadrian, sent men in search of Rashbi to find and execute him.

According to legend, Rashbi and his son Rabbi Elazar fled to the Galilee where they hid in a cave for 13 years eating only carobs from a nearby tree and drinking the water of a nearby spring. During that time, they delved into the wisdom of the hidden, the wisdom of Kabbalah, and revealed the secrets of creation. Their efforts granted them the understanding of nature’s deepest levels and the understanding of the underlying unity at the basis of existence.

After 13 years, Rashbi heard about the death of Emperor Hadrian and came out of the cave. He gathered eight more students, in addition to his son, and taught them the secrets of Torah he had revealed. With his students, Rashbi went into another cave, and with their help he wrote The Book of Zohar, which is an interpretation of the Pentateuch, parts of the Prophets and the Writings (Hagiographa), and is the seminal book in the wisdom of Kabbalah.

The Book of Zohar describes the natural relationships that exist among all people. Contrary to popular belief, it does not talk about mystical creatures and esoteric powers, but rather writes about us—the process we go through as we develop our spirituality through our relations with other people.

Through his insinuations and intimations, Rashbi explains how we should construct our relationships correctly through love of others, and how love of others will bring peace to the entire world. In the portion, Aharei Mot, the book writes, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is when brothers sit together. These are the friends as they sit together, at first, they seem like people at war, wishing to kill one another. Then, they return to being in brotherly love. Henceforth, you will also not part … and by your merit there will be peace in the world.”

These brothers and friends that The Zohar mentions are people just like you and me, who have decided to connect for one and only purpose: to attain that underlying unity at the basis of existence that we mentioned earlier. By acknowledging their mutual hatred and subsequent exertion to rise above it and unite, they connect to that force of unity and establish such profound love among them, such true brotherly love, that even The Zohar fails to describe and simply refers to it as “a burning flame of love” or “the light of The Zohar.”

The Connection between The Zohar and Lag BaOmer

Lag Ba’omer, the 33rd day of the omer count is the day when Rashbi passed away. It is also the day when the wisdom of Kabbalah was given to the world through the sealing of The Book of Zohar.

The tradition of lighting fires on Lag Ba’omer symbolizes the great light that appeared in our dark world when The Zohar was signed, sealed, and delivered to humanity—a light that can establish among us connections of love.

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

The darkness of the deadlock that our world has fallen into over the last decades stems from our unrestrained egoism. This is the exact same ailment that consumed Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students. Just as the Temple was ruined and the students of Rabbi Akiva died only because of unfounded hatred, today’s alienation and atmosphere of animosity in society are bound to wreak havoc in the world in general, and on Israel in particular.

The way out of the labyrinth requires that we use the same method of connection and unity that our ancestors used 20 centuries ago. If we implement it among us and connect above the internal rejection we feel toward each other, we will light up the same great flame that burned before and the light of The Zohar will be revealed.

My teacher, Rav Baruch Shalom Ashlag (RABASH), wrote, “In each one there is a spark of love of others. However, the spark cannot ignite the light of love. Therefore, by bonding together, the sparks becomes a big flame” (The Writings of RABASH, vol. 2, “What Is the Degree One Should Achieve”).

Establishing a Lasting Solution among Us

Today, it is becoming clear that our society requires a fundamental, long-lasting, and sustainable solution to the problems we face. The great rule of the Torah, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” is within our power to perform, if we choose together to install it among us. We are indeed selfish to the core and our “inclination is evil from our youth,” as the Torah tells us. Yet, even a journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step, and now we must take that step and begin to march on a new path: the path of unity, connection, and brotherhood.

Lag Ba’omer symbolizes the appearance of the immense light of unity in our world through The Book of Zohar. It is a great opportunity for us to begin this journey toward mutual responsibility, toward being “as one man with one heart,” toward being what the nation of Israel is all about—love of others—and toward sharing that light with the nations, just as we have been commanded to be, “a light unto nations.”
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Haaretz: “Independence Means Independence From Mutual Hatred“

In my regular column in Haaretz, my new article: “Independence Means Independence From Mutual Hatred

The only form of independence for Israel is when we lay down our arms against each other. Then we can truly celebrate.

Every Independence Day, I remember that special Shabbat knife that my teacher’s father, Rav Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), author of the Sulam (Ladder) commentary on The Book of Zohar, kept in his cabinet. The knife had a special inscription on its handle that read, Medinat Ysrael (The State of Israel), and Baal HaSulam used it only to slice the challah as he blessed Hamotzi on the eve of Shabbat. He cherished Israel not because of what it is, but because of what he prayed for it to become.

69 years ago, Israel started as a poor, tiny country, and highly dependent on its allies. Today’s Israel, however, has a strong army, a robust economy, advanced technology, and modern medicine. Yet, for all its progress, one question remains, “Has Israel become independent?”

Far from Independent

According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, being independent means that we are “not subject to control by others,” and are not “requiring or relying on something else.” By this definition, we are far from independent. As recent decisions in the UN General Assembly indicated, we are dependent on the positive view of the world in every aspect of our lives: economic, diplomatic, academic, cultural, and even in defense of our borders.

Israel is not the only country that is dependent on others for its survival. In truth, no country on the planet can claim independence. In an era of globalization, self-sufficiency is a fabrication of politicians and power-hungry rulers who flaunt the word before the crowd during mass festivities. They call out, “We will maintain our independence and our sovereignty today, tomorrow, and hereafter,” when in truth, no country can survive alone, especially not Israel whose very right to exist is questioned daily.

The UN Security Council Resolution 2334 states that Israel’s settlement activity constitutes a “flagrant violation” of international law and has “no legal validity.” The resolution, which opens the door to economic, academic, and other forms of sanctions against Israel, indicates that Israel is not as independent as it sometimes claims it is. Were it not for the election of Donald Trump as President, Israel would be in a far worse international position than it is today. For the moment, Israel has been given a hiatus from international pressure, but unless it moves in the right direction, the pressure will return with vigor.

Unity as a Condition to Sovereignty

When I speak of moving in the right direction, I am referring to pursuing the role for which we have been given sovereignty. If we connect ourselves to our vocation, we will truly become the world’s favorite nation. Connecting ourselves to our vocation means living as is required of the Israeli nation.

Despite the constant threats against Israel, it is the only country in the world whose future is in its own hands. We were established as a nation on the basis of mutual responsibility and love of others. We were declared a nation only after we committed to unite “as one man with one heart.” Unity was our motto, and as long as we were able to maintain even a trace of it, we were able to maintain sovereignty over the land. Once we lost our union, we were exiled from the land.

Throughout the ages, our sages were keenly aware of the importance of unity. The Midrash (Tanhuma, Nitzavim) writes about Israel: “When it is dark for you, the everlasting light is destined to shine for you, as it was said (Isaiah 60), ‘And it shall be to you an everlasting light.’ When? When you are all one bundle, as it was said (Deuteronomy 4), ‘You are alive every one of you this day.’ Clearly, if a person takes a bundle of reeds, can he break them at once? But if taken one at a time, even an infant can break them. Thus, you find that Israel are not redeemed until they are all one bundle.”

The first leaders of the State of Israel were also keenly aware of the paramount importance of unity to the young country. David Ben Gurion wrote, “‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Leviticus, 19:18) is the superior commandment in Judaism. With these three words the eternal, human law of Judaism has been formed… The state of Israel will be worthy of its name only if its social, economic, political, and judicial structure are based upon these three eternal words.”

A.D. Gordon echoed Ben Gurion’s words when he wrote, “‘All of Israel are responsible for one another’ … [and] only where people are responsible for one another there is Israel.” And finally, Eliezer Ben Yehuda, reviver of the Hebrew language, added, “We have yet to open our eyes and see that only unity can save us. Only if we all unite … to work in favor of the entire nation, our labor will not be in vain.”

The Only Thing We Need to Do

Israel’s unity is not a goal in and of itself. We were intended to be the avant-garde, the bellwether, leading all of humanity toward unity. The commandment to be “a light unto nations” means that we must show the world the way to unity. The Book of Zohar writes (Aharei Mot), “‘How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to also sit together.’ …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.”

This sense of Jewish purpose to correct the world has pervaded the Jewish mindset throughout the ages. German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote in Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre: “Every Jew, no matter how insignificant, is engaged in some decisive and immediate pursuit of a goal.”

Regarding the pursuit of that goal, Martin Buber wrote about the State of Israel: “We want the State of Israel not for the Jews; we want it for humanity. The construction of the new humanity will not take place without the special power of Judaism.” And Rav Kook adds likewise: “Israel’s purpose is to unite the entire world into a single family.”

Today, wherever we turn the world is blaming us for some wrongdoing. The only thing we need to do about it is unite. Our sages and our scriptures were right; world peace depends on our unity, as Sefat Emet writes, “The children of Israel became responsible to correct the entire world.”

It turns out that our strength and independence, and the world’s strength and independence, depend entirely on our willingness to unite. If we choose unity, in order to convey it to the world, we will see a dramatic change for the better. This will be the beginning of our being “a light unto nations.”

If we unite, the burdensome interdependence we call “globalization” will turn into mutual support. We do not need to teach the nations how to unite; we simply need to set an example of it.

French pastor Charles Wagner was quoted in A Book of Jewish Thoughts: “Israel has given to mankind the category of holiness. Israel alone has known the thirst for social justice, and that inner saintliness which is the source of justice.” Just as now when we are disunited, the nations reject us, when we become a role model of unity they will embrace us.

So, this Independence Day, let us finally begin to be what we are meant to be. Let us be a country that is united in mutual responsibility, whose people strive to love their neighbors as themselves and wish to pass that unity on to the entire world.

Happy Independence Day to all!
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Haaretz: “What This Means For Jews When Austria’s President Says All Women Will Wear Headscarves“

In my regular column in Haaretz, my new article: “What This Means for Jews When Austria’s President Says All Women Will Wear Headscarves

When he was elected as Austria’s president, by a margin of less than one percentage point, Mr. Alexander Van Der Bellen declared, “I will be a pro-European president of Austria open to the world.” Last week, Mr. Van Der Bellen stated about Islamophobia: “There will come a day when we have to ask every woman to wear a headscarf. Every woman! Out of solidarity with those who do it for religious reasons.”

On the one hand, we are seeing the realization of a process I have been warning about for years: the capitulation of Europe to Islam. On the other hand, there is a reactionary process where burkas (Muslim headscarf) and burkinis (Muslim full-body swimsuit) are banned in many European countries, particularly those that have suffered most in recent years from Islamic terrorism, such as France.

The tight race in the election in Austria indicates that the Austrian public is split in half. A similar picture unfolded in the UK Brexit vote, and in the US presidential election. By and large, Western countries are growing less politically tolerant, more divided, yet no view seems to have a clear upper hand. This situation makes effective governance almost impossible, guaranteeing that instability will only increase in the coming years. Unless this trend of growing political intolerance and escalating aggression is reversed, Europe will inevitably find itself embroiled in another violent conflict, which could spread to the rest of the world. If a violent eruption takes place, the Jews, as always, will pay the heaviest price.

Forcibly Entangled Narcissists

Like the Chinese curse says, we are living in interesting times. Like never before, two contradictory trajectories are impacting humanity. On one hand, we have become narcissists to the point that our level of odium toward other people has reached pathological levels. On the other hand, we have become so interdependent that we cannot break away from society.

A few generations ago, people were dependent on society for food, shelter, and health. Today, because we are so preoccupied with ourselves, we need constant reassurance of our value. As a result, we desperately need others to like us on social media and approve of the (false) images we put there. In many cases, we are so dependent on it that people who suffer from online bullying resort to suicide.

While social media is still our most common way of reconciling the need for social life with the need for privacy, it is clearly not a sustainable solution. The soaring depression rates and atrocious incidents such as live broadcasts of murders and suicides indicate that the days of social media as our preferred outlet are numbered.

Interdependence and mutual dislike are as apparent in politics as they are in the social process just described. As our narcissism escalates, so do our intolerance and aggression. And since we cannot detach ourselves from society, we turn against it.

All this means one thing: There is no solution to our situation in our current mode of thinking. To prevent the total ruin of society, we will have to rise above our differences and forge a new form of solidarity.

Today, it is common knowledge that a good team requires diversity and that exposure to diversity makes us smarter. Every sports team knows that good teamwork yields more wins than big names on the roster who play for themselves. Even though we know it, it is getting harder and harder to cooperate. Our growing egos are making it increasingly difficult for us to form meaningful bonds, resulting in disintegration on all levels, from the family unit to the whole of society.

The reason for this is simple: Our only goal is our own (usually immediate) pleasure. We want everything now, instant gratification. And if we do connect to other people, it is in order to exploit them, either openly or by seeming to help, when actually, an ulterior motive motivates us to action.

An Untapped Method

Such alienation would have made human society hopeless were it not for the existence of an untapped solution. If we tap into it, we will not only resolve the current crises we are facing, but we will come to view them as necessary, preparatory steps toward a much safer and brighter future. Albert Einstein once said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” If we apply this solution, we will rise to a new level of thinking, for which the current problems will be the foundation.

The first person to think of this solution was Abraham the Patriarch almost four millennia ago. As I wrote in the essay “Why Do People Hate Jews,” and in my book Like a Bundle of Reeds: Why Unity and Mutual Guarantee Are Today’s Call of the Hour, the Midrash (Beresheet Rabbah), Maimonides, and many other sources tell us that similar to what is happening today, the Babylonians in Abraham’s time were growing increasingly alienated. These books tell us that when Abraham reflected on the alienation of the Babylonians, he realized what we are now realizing ourselves: We cannot stop the intensification of egoism, but unless we find some way to deal with the ego, it will destroy us.

In Mishneh Torah (Chapter 1), Maimonides writes that to find a solution to the problem of the growing ego, Abraham observed nature. He realized that in nature, everything is balanced. What maintains stability is the fact that in addition to egoism, there is a balancing force, a desire to connect and build, which matches the desire to disconnect and destroy. This balance, Abraham concluded, enables the opposites that make life possible: hot and cold, connection and separation, creation and destruction, and all the other opposites that make up our universe. In humans, however, Abraham discovered that “The inclination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen 8:21).

As soon as he realized that he had found the key to social stability, Abraham began to circulate it. In the words of Maimonides, “He began to provide answers to the people of Ur of the Chaldeans [Abraham’s city in Babylon], to converse with them and to tell them that the path on which they were walking was not the path of truth.”

Abraham explained that the only way to overcome the ego that had erupted between them was to strengthen the unity between them. Since nature denied humankind the balance between forces it endowed with the rest of nature, Abraham suggested that they could “compensate” for the lack of the connecting force by creating it themselves. This is why today we know him as a man of mercy and kindness, since he strove to connect people.

As more and more people assembled around Abraham to learn his solution, he became a threat to Nimrod, the King of Babylon, who ultimately expelled Abraham. Outside of Babylon, Abraham continued to gather followers and students who subscribed to the idea that the way to overcome the ego is by increasing unity in sync with the intensification of the ego.

Abraham passed his knowledge on to Isaac, who passed it on to Jacob, who then passed it on to Joseph. After centuries of honing a unique method of connection, the Hebrews obtained such powerful unity that even though they came from different places and ethnicities, they became a nation at the foot of Mt. Sinai, from the Hebrew word sinaa (hatred). As the Hebrews overcame the mountain of hatred and alienation between them by nurturing their unity to a level that matched their separation, they balanced the egoism that was growing in them and created a solid society based on social justice and mutual responsibility that to this day is the basis of what we define as humanism.

Dutch-American sociologist Ernest van den Haag asked in The Jewish Mystique: “In a world where Jews are only a tiny percentage of the population, what is the secret of the disproportionate importance the Jews have had in the history of Western culture?” Similarly, Christian historian Paul Johnson wrote in A History of the Jews: “At a very early stage in their collective existence they believed they had detected a divine scheme for the human race, of which their own society was to be a pilot. They worked out their role in immense detail. They clung to it with heroic persistence in the face of savage suffering. Many of them believe it still. Others transmuted it into Promethean endeavors to raise our condition by purely human means. The Jewish vision became the prototype for many similar grand designs for humanity, both divine and man-made. The Jews, therefore, stand right at the center of the perennial attempt to give human life the dignity of a purpose.”

The way Abraham and his disciples handled the ego was very simple yet effective. The book Likutey Etzot (Assorted Counsels) describes this in the following way: “The essence of peace is to connect two opposites. Hence, do not be alarmed if you see a person whose view is the complete opposite of yours and you think that you will never be able to make peace with him. Also, when you see two people who are completely opposite to each other, do not say that it is impossible to make peace between them. On the contrary, the essence of peace is to try to make peace between two opposites.”

By Your Merit, There Will Be Peace in the World

After the “inauguration ceremony” at the foot of Mt. Sinai and the official commencement of the Jewish people, the young nation experienced countless tests to their unity. They overcame tremendous internal conflicts as they struggled to increase their unity over their growing egos. In so doing, they polished and improved their method of connection. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai described this approach in The Book of Zohar (portion Beshalach): “All the wars in the Torah are for peace and love.”

Immediately after the Jews became a nation, they were commanded to be “a light unto nations,” namely to pass on the method of connection they had built among them to the rest of the world. Abraham intended to spread his method throughout Babylon, and had it not been for King Nimrod’s interference, he would have succeeded. Noah and Moses both intended to complete Abraham’s work but failed, too, because of impediments they had encountered. The great kabbalist, Ramchal, wrote in the book Adir Bamarom (Mighty One on High): “Noah was created to correct the world in the state that it was at that time. At that time there were already the nations, and they will also receive correction from him.” In The Ramchal Commentary on the Torah, the sage writes about Moses: “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.”

The Book of Zohar connects the work on unity among Jews to their role toward the nations in the portion Aharei Mot: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is when brothers sit together. These are the friends as they sit together, at first they seem like people at war, wishing to kill one another. Then, they return to being in brotherly love. Henceforth, you will also not part … and by your merit there will be peace in the world.”

Countless Jewish sources connect the world’s problems with Israel not carrying out their task. The Babylonian Talmud (Masechet Yevamot 63a) writes, “No calamity comes to the world but because of Israel.” Rav Kook elaborates on this duty in his book Orot (Lights): “The construction of the world, which is crumbling under the dreadful storms of a blood-filled sword, requires the construction of the Israeli nation. The construction of the nation and the revealing of its spirit are one … with the construction of the world, which is crumbling in anticipation for a force full of unity and sublimity, and all that is in the soul of the Assembly of Israel.”

In his essay “Mutual Guarantee,” Rav Yehuda Ashlag, author of the Sulam (Ladder) commentary on The Book of Zohar, writes, “It is upon the Israeli nation to qualify itself and all the people of the world to develop until they take upon themselves that sublime work of the love of others, which is the ladder to the purpose of creation.”

Since the ruin of the Second Temple two millennia ago due to unfounded hatred, the Jews have by and large displayed disunity and a desire to assimilate and abandon their vocation. But the world feels it is their duty to be “a light unto nations,” to bring the light of unity to the world. The more the world falls into divisiveness and inability to resolve its conflicts, the more it will turn its frustration at the Jews. And the more the Jews try to avoid their duty, the harder the world will punish them.

The most satanic detractor of Judaism in history, Adolf Hitler, wrote in his hate-filled composition, Mein Kampf: “When over long periods of human history I scrutinized the activity of the Jewish people, suddenly there arose up in me the fearful question whether inscrutable Destiny, perhaps for reasons unknown to us poor mortals, did not, with eternal and immutable resolve, desire the final victory of this little nation.” Hitler even sensed that the problem with Jews was their separation. Elsewhere in Mein Kampf he wrote, “The Jew is only united when a common danger forces him to be or a common booty entices him; if these two grounds are lacking, the qualities of the crassest egoism come into their own.”

A World Awaiting Our Decision

In a divided world such as we see today, the method of connection that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob developed is imperative to the survival of humanity. The tension around North Korea is an example of how any local conflict could drag the world into a nuclear catastrophe. The ego is becoming deranged, irrational, and very, very dangerous.

Consciously or not, the world blames the Jews for its misfortunes. The more the world plunges into crisis after crisis, the more the Jews will be blamed for all of them. Thomas Lopez-Pierre, bidding for a seat in the NYC council, said recently, “Greedy Jewish Landlords are at the forefront of ethnic cleansing/pushing Black/Hispanic tenants out of their apartments.” As these accusations become increasingly commonplace, they will lead to the natural conclusion that to get rid of the problem we must get rid of the Jews.

Unless Jews serve as an example of unity the way Abraham devised it, where they overcome strife by increasing unity in sync with the growing ego, they will be treated just as they were treated in 20th century Germany. At first, they will be given the option to leave for Israel, just as Hitler tried to persuade the Jews to leave Germany and move to Israel. If the Jews do not leave willingly, then the world will resort to the other option: extermination.

But the Jews need not sit passively and watch as their doom approaches. They can choose to be “a light unto nations.” In the early 1900s, Rav Hillel Zeitlin wrote in Sifran Shel Yehidim: “If Israel is the one true redeemer of the entire world, it must be qualified for this redemption. Israel must first redeem their souls. …But when will this world salvation come? Is it now that this nation, whose majority lost its ancient spiritual form and is immersed in bickering, fighting, and unfounded hatred? Therefore, in this book, I am appealing to establish the unity of Israel. …If this is established, there will be a unification of individuals for the purpose of elevation and correction of all the ills of the nation and the world.”

Indeed, the stagnated world, teetering between left and right, is awaiting our decision to unite and become a role model of solidarity, mutual responsibility, and brotherhood. That decision is the difference between heaven and hell for the Jews, in particular, and for the world in general.
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JPost: “Comment: Is Judaism Racism?”

The Jerusalem Post published my new article “Comment: Is Judaism Racism?

Through their unity or lack thereof, the Jews determine whether hatred or love of others will prevail the world over, and the world relates to them accordingly.

Just recently,Thomas Lopez-Pierre, who is bidding for a seat in the NYC council, said, “Greedy Jewish Landlords are at the forefront of ethnic cleansing/pushing Black/Hispanic tenants out of their apartments.” Zionism has already been accused of racism, but today we are seeing the argument that Jews favor only their coreligionists gaining more and more turf.

It makes sense to think of Judaism as a racist religion. After all, we are regarded as “a people who dwells apart, and will not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers 23:9). Throughout the ages, we have been defined as “the chosen people,” “a light unto nations,” and other depictions that set us apart from the rest of humanity. But is Judaism itself racist? Does it aspire to subordinate other nations? Does it demand to convert non-Jews to Judaism? Does Judaism assert that being Jewish grants prerogatives that are not to be given to people of other faiths?

As we will see, the truth is to the contrary. Judaism means more commitment and more demands from its own adherents, and not from anyone else. Instead of requiring the subjugation of others, it requires the commitment of Jews to serve humanity.

Unity that Matches Enmity

Throughout the ages, numerous scholars and people of faith have wondered about the meaning and purpose of Judaism. Cambridge historian T.R. Glover wrote in The Ancient World: “No ancient people have had a stranger history than the Jews. …The history of no ancient people should be so valuable, if we could only recover it and understand it. …Stranger still, the ancient religion of the Jews survives when all the religions of every ancient race have disappeared … Also, it is strange that the living religions of the world all build on religious ideas derived from the Jews. The great matter is not ‘What happened?’ but ‘Why did it happen?’ ‘Why does Judaism live?’”

To understand Judaism, we must go back to its beginning, and connect it to its final purpose. Some 3,800 years ago in the area known as the Fertile Crescent, humanity was taking its baby steps toward becoming a civilization. At that time, Babylon was the ruling empire and governed the lush lands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Even then, problems began to appear. People’s vanity began to take its toll as the Babylonian Empire and its king, Nimrod, tried to build a tower “whose top will reach into heaven” because they wanted to make a name for themselves (Genesis 11:4). But instead of a tower, writes the book Pirkei De Rabbi Eliezer (Chapter 24), the builders grew so hostile that they “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 the death. Indeed, half the world was slaughtered there, and from there they scattered all over the world.”

To counter the Babylonians’ enmity toward each other, the Patriarch Abraham realized that they must cultivate a matching measure of connection and unity. He understood that in creation, everything is united, and the apparent contradictions actually complement one another and form a perfect whole. Abraham also realized that if the Babylonians knew about nature’s wholeness they, would stop hating other people and would, instead, cherish the diversity and benefit from it.

Immediately after his revelation, Abraham began to circulate his concept, or as Maimonides describes it in Mishneh Torah (Chapter 1), “He began to provide answers to the people of Ur of the Chaldeans [Abraham’s city in Babylon], to converse with them and to tell them that the path on which they were walking was not the path of truth.”

Even though King Nimrod confronted Abraham and demanded that he would stop circulating his ideas, Abraham insisted on continuing until finally Nimrod expelled Abraham from Babylon. As the expat wandered toward what was to become the Land of Israel, writes Maimonides in Mishneh Torah (Chapter 1), “Thousands and tens of thousands assembled around him. He planted this tenet [of unity] 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.”

These three patriarchs of Judaism gave it its essence: Unity is the remedy for hatred. When hatred increases, do not push it under the carpet, but acknowledge it and nurture unity to match it. In the succinct words of King Solomon (Proverbs 10:12): “Hate stirs strife, and love covers all crimes.”

It follows that Judaism does not derive from geographical or biological affinity, but rather from an ideological perception that unity is the key to solving every problem. The Hebrew word Yehudi [Jew] comes from the word yihudi [united], writes the book Yaarot Devash (Part 2, Drush no. 2). In other words, the only criterion by which one can become Jewish is one’s acceptance of the principle that love must cover all crimes, and unity must be the basis of all human relations. The myriads who joined Abraham came from all over the Fertile Crescent and the Near and Middle East, and they were all welcome as long as they followed the law of unity.

The Antisemites’ Keen Perception

The Hebrews suffered just like everyone else from the intensification of the ego. The only difference between them and the rest of the nations was that they had decided not to fight each other when hostility increased among them, but rather to increase the love between them. While our ancestors often succumbed to fierce and often violent internal conflicts, in the end, they always remembered what they must do and how to achieve peace. This is why The Book of Zohar writes (Beshalach), “All the wars in the Torah are for peace and love.”

When we achieved a sufficient level of unity, we became a nation and were immediately commanded to be “a light unto nations,” to convey what Abraham had wanted to convey to the Babylonians in the first place. The great kabbalist Ramchal wrote that like Abraham, both Noah and Moses wanted to complete the correction of the world in their respective times, but circumstances prevented this from them. In Adir Bamarom (Mighty One on High), Ramchal wrote, “Noah was created to correct the world in the state that it was at that time. At that time there were already the nations, and they will also receive correction from him.” In The Ramchal Commentary on the Torah, the sage writes about Moses: “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.”

The nations, too, recognized our unique role as bearers of redemption, though very few connected redemption with unity. It was actually the most satanic detractor of Judaism in history, Adolf Hitler, who was among those who did connect Judaism with unity. In his hate-filled composition, Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote both about the unique fate of the Jews and about the importance of their unity. “When over long periods of human history I scrutinized the activity of the Jewish people, suddenly there arose up in me the fearful question whether inscrutable Destiny, perhaps for reasons unknown to us poor mortals, did not, with eternal and immutable resolve, desire the final victory of this little nation.” Concerning Jewish unity or lack thereof, Hitler wrote, “The Jew is only united when a common danger forces him to be or a common booty entices him; if these two grounds are lacking, the qualities of the crassest egoism come into their own.”

Another notorious antisemite who observed the unique quality of the ancient Jewish society was Henry Ford. In The International Jew—the World’s Foremost Problem, Ford wrote, “Modern reformers, who are constructing model social systems, would do well to look into the social system under which the early Jews were organized.” Ford wanted to take an example from the Jews, but since they are apart, he resorted to their ancestors, the “early Jews.”

Since the ruin of the Second Temple due to hatred, the Jews have been immersed in hatred. They have forgotten the principle that love covers all crimes and let hatred govern their hearts. But since they are intended to be “a light unto nations,” the world blames them for every act of hatred that unfolds anywhere in the world. Jews may not know that they have the key to ending hatred, but the world senses it and demands this of them.

The greatest commentator on The Book of Zohar in the 20th century, Rav Yehuda Ashlag, wrote in the essay “Mutual Guarantee”: “The Israeli nation had been constructed as a sort of gateway by which sparks of love of others would shine upon the whole of the human race the world over.”

Rav Hillel Zeitlin also stressed the importance of Jewish unity for the correction of the world. In Sifran Shel Yehidim he wrote, “If Israel is the one true redeemer of the entire world, it must be qualified for this redemption. Israel must first redeem their souls. …But when will this world salvation come? Is it now that this nation is immersed in bickering, fighting, and unfounded hatred? Therefore, in this book, I am appealing to establish the unity of Israel. …If this is established, there will be a unification of individuals for the purpose of elevation and correction of all the ills of the nation and the world.”

Double Standard

One of the criteria to determine whether a person is antisemitic is “double standard.” That is, people are tested as to whether they judge Jews and Israel differently from everyone else. If we are to be honest, we should admit that everyone, even Jews, judge Israel and Jews differently from all other nations. This “double standard” is written in the scriptures, and every person in the world feels that Jews are different.

Jews are different but they are not racists, since authentic Judaism dictates that anyone who subscribes to the idea of unity above hatred is regarded as Jewish. Yet, Jews are definitely unique.

Currently, because Jews are not “a light unto nations,” meaning they are not spreading the light of unity, the world hates them. If the Jews return to being what they were when they became a nation after committing to unite “as one man with one heart,” the world will view them as the most valuable nation on the planet. Through their unity or separation, the Jews determine whether hatred or love of others will prevail the world over, and the world relates to them accordingly.

No other text sums up this message as clearly as this excerpt from The Book of Zohar. In the portion Aharei Mot, the book writes, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is when brothers sit together. These are the friends as they sit together, at first they seem like people at war, wishing to kill one another. Then, they return to being in brotherly love. Henceforth, you will also not part … and by your merit there will be peace in the world.” Let us do what we must do.
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