The Times of Israel published my new article “Unlocking the Ancient Book of Zohar to Understand Today’s Anti-Semitism”
Certain things do not vanish over time. They just change their shape, motion and means to penetrate people’s minds. Prejudice against Jews is one of those cases. With the surge in new means of communication, prejudice has also adopted new ways to spread. But actual answers to the eternal dilemma of how to eradicate anti-Semitism will be found by looking back to ancient scriptures.
The light of The Zohar is like a gate to a truer reality that is currently hidden from our view. Let’s look at anti-Semitism afresh in this new light that The Zohar sheds.
If 200 years ago, you would have arrived at some forsaken Siberian village, and declared that you were Jewish, the locals would have reacted in astonishment, “We do not believe you!” And if you were to ask why, they would have answered, “It’s because you have no horns on your head.” As primitive as that sounds, blood libels against Jews and grotesque images of greedy merchants with hooked noses are still prevalent in social media and cultural manifestations in American and European societies to this day.
Furthermore, belief in the myth that Jews killed Jesus and the misconception of Jewish double-loyalty continues with disturbing frequency. Anti-Semitism stands as ugly and forceful as ever. It has always existed, and the question is only to what extent it floats to the surface or remains submerged.
It should be declared straightaway: the struggle against anti-Semitic stereotypes will be fruitless. The hatred toward the Jewish people will only strengthen because it has spiritual roots.
The wisdom of Kabbalah explains that the source of this phenomenon exists within the structure of the spiritual world itself, which is divided into what Kabbalah terms “Rosh” (“head”) and “Guf” (“body”), i.e., “Israel” and the” nations of the world.” This allegorical thought is also sometimes expressed as the “heart” and the “bodily organs” that dangle and manifest themselves in our material world.
According to the seminal ancient book in Kabbalah, The Book of Zohar, which explains the secrets of the Torah: “Israel is the heart of the whole world, just as the organs of the body could not exist in the world even for a moment without the heart, so all the nations cannot exist in the world without Israel.”
Just as the role of the heart in the human body is to provide the power to pump blood to all the organs, so the role of Israel is to provide humanity with the power to connect, to supply spiritual abundance to the nations of the world. In other words, Israel is to be “light unto the nations.”
The people of Israel and the nations of the world are not merely groupings of people on the face of the earth. The wisdom of Kabbalah explains that the terms refer to the two forces that act within each and every person, forces that are called “Israel” and “the nations of the world.”
The desires within us that are sensitive to the force of connection among people are called “Israel,” and the opposite desires we possess that demand to receive and enjoy the abundance that flows from such connection without consideration of others are called “nations of the world.” Both forces reside and interact within a person and within humanity as a whole. When one force rises, the other falls, and vice versa. Thus, the flames of hatred toward the Jewish people can be lowered, or alternatively, strengthened according to the balance between these desires.
How can we reinforce the “Israel” within us over the “nations of the world”? How can we increase our sensitivity toward connection over our other desires for self-indulgence at the expense of others?
We can achieve it through the study of Kabbalah—the method of connection—and particularly, The Book of Zohar. The Zohar has a great positive influence on us even if we are unable to grasp its full dimensions and benefit. Our sages elucidated the process as follows:
“To explain how The Zohar purifies the soul even when the reader doesn’t understand what he says, we have the example of he who enters a perfume store, even if he doesn’t buy any perfume, when he leaves the store, he has the smell attached to him.” (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sadilkov)
The light of The Zohar is like a gate to the true reality that at present is hidden from our senses. It has tremendous power, but for us to be able to use its force of revelation efficiently, we need to read the stories narrated in The Zohar as a practical guide to discover a deeper reality through unity beyond the boundaries of the material world.
How does this process work?
When we aspire for unity, we awaken the force of connection among us, and sharpen our sensitivity to positive relations between us based on rapport, elevating “Israel” within us and bestowing abundance to the world. In such a state, no one in the world would deal anymore with anti-Semitic depictions or prejudice against Jews, but instead with the warm and considerate heart that should depict the Jewish people and its great contribution to the world’s betterment.