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JNS: “‘Tikkun Olam’ In The New Year 5779”

Jewish News Syndicate published my new article: “‘Tikkun olam’ in the New Year 5779

(September 13, 2018 / JNS) “I wish all my Jewish friends in Iran and Jews worldwide a very happy new year filled with peace and harmony,” said Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. “Despite all the challenges the Jewish people have faced, their strength and perseverance continue to inspire us all,” U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted.

But among the dozens of blessings for the Jewish New Year by various leaders, that of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo touched a main point: “Tikkun olam is the Jewish principle that teaches us that while the world is often imperfect and broken, we have a shared responsibility to fix it.”

World leaders are right to shed light on the unique role of the Jewish people, and especially with regards to the concept of tikkun olam (“correction of the world”). According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, that will only happen when we first repair the relations between people.

At a time when humanity’s interdependence is tightening and showing itself as the basis of all our human-made systems, there is a dire need to build new relationships of mutual consideration among all people. In fact, the numerous crises we are witnessing in all areas of life point to a terrible lack of healthy and positive connections between citizens of the world.

So what is the role of the Jewish people in light of today’s escalating global crisis? Some will say that the Jews are causing it, while others say they hold the key to tikkun olam. The wisdom of Kabbalah explains where both views emerge from.

The Jewish people were formed as a result of the first global crisis that afflicted humanity. Some 3,800 years ago, between the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, in a desert region near present-day Iraq, humanity lived in great clans in Babylon. They lived together as kin until that relationship was shattered. The egotistical desire increased within the Babylonians, made them quarrel with one another and led to severe crises in all spheres of life.

One of the Babylonian priests named Abraham wondered about the nature of the deepening social rift. He discovered that it stems from a natural and inevitable growth of humanity’s egoism. In other words, Abraham discovered that tikkun olam is nothing other than a correction of the relationship between people. He wandered among the various tribes and clans, and called upon anyone who felt the need to build a new society.

The Babylonians who joined Abraham learned how to build healthy, positive and correct relationships, above the growing egoism. In time, the group grew into a new people: the people of Israel. Thus, the Jewish people were founded from a collection of representatives of humanity’s past civilization. The common denominator between them was the value of tikkun olam—the discovery of unity in diversity, and choosing mutual concern over mutual exploitation.

It has a ripple effect, spreading from the inside out. The Jewish people are essentially the first circle. They are a mini-model of humanity, a model of universal connection between people. That connection is destined to spread and shape the other circles around it.

At the peak of this process of tikkun olam, humanity reaches unity beyond borders, across the globe. That is, unity of the broadest circle that encompasses all of humanity—from world leaders to sheep herders in remote mountains. The correction must reach every man and woman, and every boy and girl. Everyone is equal, everyone is important; there is no preference and no discrimination.

In our time, the first step towards tikkun olam is raising awareness around the globe to the need for unity. Every person in the world must recognize the natural, integral system that binds us and requires us to be considerate of each other.

The Jewish people carries the idea and must reawaken it. Its role is to be as “a light unto the nations,” by being an exemplary society. Today, the nations of the world also have a duty to awaken the people of Israel to its role as a catalyst for tikkun olam. And just like the cordial greetings of leaders around the world, it is better to experience friendly and positive pressure from the world, rather than the hateful and anti-Semitic kind of pressure.

However, when it comes to tikkun olam, we should not expect salvation to come from leaders and rulers. The change will begin with the masses. It is not for nothing that the modern world became connected through the Internet. The virtual connection between millions of people enables us to raise the awareness of unity in a positive way and bring about tikkun olam in pleasant ways.

When masses of people consider the value of connection, even slightly, they create a tremendous wave of mutuality and consideration. The power of connection is greater than any individual, and it enables human society to rise above its narrow, egoistic nature to discover a vast space of happiness that stems from unity.

Tikkun olam begins with tikkun adam (“the correction of man”). A tiny change of consciousness in each of us is all that is needed. And if you still lack a clear call to action, share this message with everyone.

Newsmax: “Trump’s Moves Better Suited To Our Interconnected Globe In Our Times”

The largest portal Newsmax published my new article “Trump’s Moves Better Suited to Our Interconnected Globe in Our Times

Last week, President Trump made another strategic move on the global chessboard. He officially announced that the U.S. is pulling back funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees.

Germany, in response to Trump, announced that it would significantly increase its aid to UNRWA. However, sooner or later, Germany would have to agree with the U.S. move.

To comprehend why, we need to see how Germany’s current modus operandi in these matters is leading it to a tipping point.

70 Years of Repressed National Pride Emerging Once Again

With the fall of Nazi Germany at the end of World War II, Germany’s national pride suffered a major blow. Since then, Germans have been very cautious about openly expressing their national pride.

Over the years, the German population shrank due to a low birth rate. There was a severe manpower shortage. In need of workers, Germany gradually opened its borders to let in migrants. In the beginning, Turks flocked in and were well-integrated into the German economy.

Over the years, however, many immigrants from Arab countries, including extremists, joined them with a single aspiration — to establish the Islamic caliphate on European soil.

As Muslims in Germany increased in numbers, the ethnic mix quickly tilted.

In recent years, Germany’s 70 years of repressed national pride is showing signs of bursting at the seams, most notably in the form of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) rightwing to far-right political party taking seats in the Bundestag.

With such a large influx of Muslim immigrants on one hand, and far-right political support gaining strength on the other hand, the stage has been set in Germany for oncoming civil unrest.

Do Trump’s Moves Increase Tension Between Nations?

Today’s world is increasingly interconnected, not only economically and technologically, but also culturally. While on the surface, liberal ideologies that uphold equality and freedom sound positive for an interconnected world, a problem lurks within such ideologies.

If we do not revise the way we educate and raise ourselves, so that we match the world’s increasing interconnectedness with “interconnected attitudes,” i.e. more considerate, cooperative and unified attitudes toward each other — so that we build a new level of mutual understanding above the instinctive drives for national or religious superiority — then the globe’s increasing interconnectedness will be felt as increasing tension, of the sort Germany currently experiences.

We could enjoy equality and freedom if we successfully enhanced the quality of our connections, by raising the level of human awareness to relate positively to each other in such a state.

Until then, while no such education is implemented on any mass scale, then Trump’s approach of developing economic give and take relations between the U.S. and other countries serves to reinstate clearer and more practical relations.

As nations become more grounded in such relations, then the soil becomes more fertile to begin revising how we can start upgrading our attitudes to meet the challenges presented by today’s increasingly interconnected world.

Moreover, the way Trump makes his moves openly and stubbornly, in a completely opposite way to Obama, sparks a political-global disruption.

Not only is he shaking off ungrounded ideologies that have stuck to society and the global economy over the years, he is also putting a spoke in the wheels of a politically correct culture covering deepening injustices with a polite and respectful rhetoric.

Europe has been the first continent showing signs of following suit with this tendency.

Migrating From Negative to Positive Through Educational Programs

The way Trump has disrupted the global political and media landscapes has helped reveal the deep-seeded state of separation the world is in.

It is my hope, however, that this global and transparent process will be met with guided development in a positive direction as soon as possible, in the form of educational programs for unity and reconciliation of all divisions — within and between nations.

Read Newsmax: Trump’s Moves Better Suited to Our Interconnected Globe in Our Times | Newsmax.com
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The Times Of Israel: “What Has Changed This Jewish Year?”

The Times of Israel published my new article “What Has Changed This Jewish Year?

An Introspection at Rosh Hashanah, 1st of Tishrei, 5779

What has changed this year compared to last year? As Jews, do we feel safer?

If we look at world events, unfortunately, the situation has changed for the worse. We are in the thick of a groundswell of hatred against Jews and Israel.

Anti-Semitism Everywhere

Anti-Semitic incidents are at an all-time high in Europe and North America. In Britain, the Labour Party is rocked by anti-Semitic scandals and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is at the center of a crusade against Jews and Israel. The current climate is making British Jews consider leaving the country.

In Germany, 1,000s of neo-Nazis are taking to the streets more often and more openly, mobilizing to rekindle Hitler’s thoughts and ideals. Their rallies recently became the most violent protests in decades, placing even civil authorities in jeopardy.

France, Poland, Austria, Canada and the US also join the legion of countries where anti-Semitism is on the rise. In the US, anti-Semitic incidents are a widespread phenomena. Only last year, there was a 60% spike, the largest single-year increase on record, according to monitoring groups.

Israeli and American Jews’ Growing Rift

And what about Israel? If Israel has been considered a safety net for the Jewish people, it is currently the source of a growing rift between the world’s two largest Jewish communities: Israeli and American Jews. Those in the Diaspora expect more pluralism from the Jewish state and self-determination in the way they conceive and live their Jewishness. There is also a significant split on how President Trump’s handling of the US-Israel relationship is viewed: 77% approval from Israelis, while only 34% of American Jews express positive views.

As we approach the introspective period of Rosh Hashanah, there is growing urgency to understand where we are, how we’ve reached this place, and how we advance from here.

Rosh Hashanah: The Beginning of Change

The words, “Rosh Hashanah,” come from the Hebrew words, “Rosh Hashinui” — the beginning of change. Besides food and family gatherings, Jewish festivals have profound meanings. Rosh Hashanah is not just the beginning of the Hebrew calendar. It is a symbol of renewal, when we start examining ourselves and determining how we want to improve ourselves.

We taste from a fish’s head to state that we want to be the head and not the tail, meaning that we want to determine our path and not blindly follow the herd. We eat pomegranate seeds, where each seed represents a desire we discover within, and which we want to learn to use not selfishly, but in order to benefit others. Also, we eat an apple, the symbol of the sin (of self-centeredness), and sweeten it with honey, which symbolizes learning to use even that primordial temptation altruistically.

Jewish Holidays Symbolize Stages of Our Correction

The people of Israel coined the saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and to various degrees implemented it until the ruin of the second Temple. All of our festivals symbolize milestones along the path of transformation from the evil inclination — namely egoism — to altruism, where we love our neighbors as ourselves.

It is written in the Mishnah and the Gemarah (and countless other texts) that the only reason why the second Temple was ruined is unfounded hatred. That is, when egoism takes over, we fall. We have been established as a nation only when we vowed to be “as one man with one heart.” When we broke that vow we were dispersed and exiled.

No less important than our vow to be as one was the promise we received that we would be a light for the nations. But in the absence of the bond between us, what light do we emit? When we are united and project that unity, we become a light for the nations and cannot be referred to as “warmongers” because we spread unity.

Jews Must Fix Growing Alienation in the World

Today’s biggest problem is the global mistrust we see on all levels. One by one our illusions shatter. Who can we trust? I’ll spare you the dismal examples that answer this rhetoric question, but it is clear that we are growing increasingly alienated from each other — the opposite of the unity and brotherly love that are so vital for survival in a world where everyone depends on everyone else.

The more we pursue the current trend, the greater the pressure that will be applied on the Jews. Deep down, the world remembers that the Jews once knew the secret to proper human connection. When that memory surfaces, it is vented out as accusations that we are warmongers, manipulators, and other “compliments” that have become part of the anti-Jewish lingo.

Although we, too, are disconnected, but we are the ones who can and must rekindle our unity. We may still be very far from unity, but here at least is a recognition of the indispensability of this unjustly derogated value.

Finding The Key To Our Happiness

So this Rosh Hashanah is an amazing opportunity to really make it Rosh Hashinui, and begin to change how we relate to one another. As we gather with family and friends, we must make it a point to rise above our differences and find the common goal of unity. And when we do that, the previously mentioned woes will be no more, since if you look at them, you’ll see that all of them derive from one and only origin — our overblown egos.

This year, let’s spread some honey on our overblown egos, symbolized by the apple (Heb: tapuach, from the word, tafuach [bloated]), and sweeten them with unity. This is all we need; this is all the world needs; and it is the key to our lasting happiness.

BIN: “How Trump Can Reallocate the $200 Million Slashed Off Palestinian Aid”

The largest portal Breaking Israel News published my new article “How Trump Can Reallocate the $200 Million Slashed Off Palestinian Aid

And a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph (Exodus 1:8)

And a new king rose to power, and his name was Trump. And he ruled Israel with an iron fist, imposing economic sanctions on its citizens and stifling its international trade. And the United Nations celebrated as they finally managed to delegitimize Israel.

Such a horror scenario seems far from today’s reality. Trump is seen by many as an avid friend of Israel in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile toward it. However, the man who declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, who continues to protect Israel’s position in the international arena and who cherishes the Jewish people – is certainly holding the reins. With each passing day, Israel’s future seems to be dependent on his continued support.

But behind the show of sympathy for Israel, Trump is a shrewd businessman. Like a good salesman, he first grants you a sweet taste while making sure he can demand a handsome payment afterwards. In his outlandish way, Trump is paving the way – on both the Israeli side and the Palestinian side – for a peace deal that could grant him a level of prestige that no U.S. president has ever achieved before.

However, Trump is destined to fail in this area just like all his predecessors did. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible only if it is based on the laws of nature.

According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, peace between human beings in general is only possible through the activation of nature’s inherent binding force, and any plan that doesn’t take it into account will fail.

The people of Israel are the only nation founded on unity that’s based on the laws of nature. They lived by the natural system of human connection for hundreds of years until they went to a long exile, wandered the world and lost their foundation.

The creation of the Jewish people was nature’s way of making a mini-model of unity among humans that would later be extended to the whole of humanity. Therefore, Israel’s conflicts with its neighbors and with the rest of the world will gradually escalate until the people of Israel fulfill their natural role.

JNS: “Jesse Bogner’s ‘Spiritual Action Writing’”

Jewish News Syndicate published the article: “Emerging Author Jesse Bogner’s ‘Spiritual Action Writing’ Covers Everything from Kabbalah to Trump

Another theme in Bogner’s writing is what he calls the use of a “rational mind to show the world is no longer rational.”

What’s at the intersection of Judaism, politics and spirituality? It’s a literary niche being carved out by up-and-coming writer Jesse Bogner, a student of leading international authority on Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) Michael Laitman.

Bogner left New York City for Israel in 2013 to study under Laitman at the Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education and Research Institute, which calls itself the world’s largest group of Kabbalists. During his time at Bnei Baruch, Bogner authored The Egotist,” his spiritual memoir and social critique.

His second book, Tikkunim (Corrections), published in January 2018, is a compilation of Bogner’s political commentary. He is currently writing his first novel, and his op-eds regularly appear in The Daily Caller, The Huffington Post, The Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel.

Bogner, 30, who lives in Petach Tikva, identifies his work as “spiritual action writing.”

“When people look for political answers to the problems that the world presents to us, they find that neither side really has a clear solution,” he tells JNS. “The reason for that is we’ve lost touch with the spiritual root of our problems, which is a fundamental lack of relationships between people and the core connection we have—the opportunity to resolve problems by overcoming our differences. It might sound like some sort of a ‘kumbaya,’ hippy concept, but it’s really the basis for Judaism—that every person has an essence or spirit, a part of God inside them, and if you’re able to do kind things for others then you’re loving God and awakening a higher reality.”

Trump: ‘Someone who speaks his mind’

Another theme in Bogner’s writing is what he calls the use of a “rational mind to show the world is no longer rational.” His analysis for The Daily Caller on the Women’s March, for instance, argues that the activists behind the march fight to cure problems that no longer exist. Bogner is a liberal-turned-conservative whose shift occurred upon the election of U.S. President Donald Trump.

“Nobody is critical of Trump’s policies,” he says. “They’re critical of things that he said or might have said. I think it’s really that people are so disgusted at his personality, the kind of polite liberal society is so fundamentally opposed to someone who speaks his mind and is being open.”

Bogner cites Trump’s attitude towards trade and landmark decisions on Israel, such as moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, as examples of rational policymaking.

“I’ve been waiting for a politician to be rational about Israel for so long, and Trump is kind of the first leader who’s fully embraced Israel in that way,” says Bogner.

The author observes people on the right talking about the spiritual root of political and social problems, but on the left, he says, “I don’t really see it at all.”

“When you see terrorism, school shootings, tragedies and racial divisions in America, the liberal answers to these things don’t really seem to address the root of the problem,” he explains. “Their solution seems to be that if you were to get rid of guns or change your vocabulary, that suddenly becomes how you solve it. It’s this binary way of looking at the world, where the left says, ‘If you don’t agree with us, you’re a racist,’ and when the right doesn’t agree with something, they say you’re a Godless person. People from different backgrounds need to get together and start embracing different points of view.”

‘The crisis the world is going through’

Bogner says he was “the typical secular American Jew” coming from a wealthy background in New York before Kabbalah changed his life.

“I would party a lot, do a lot of drugs. I was more interested in status and having a good time. I saw myself as someone who would be sort of a literary icon, even though it was largely in my own mind,” says Bogner, who graduated from Bard College with a degree in creative writing.

“I got to a point where I was feeling a profound emptiness, and everything in my life that had a lot of promise seemed to be falling apart,” he adds.

While Bogner was in between jobs, his father asked him if he could edit a book Laitman wrote about the Kabbalistic meaning of anti-Semitism. Later, Laitman surprised Bogner with a new proposition: move to Israel and write a book. Bogner joined the Bnei Baruch institute and started writing The Egotist, which was ultimately published by Laitman Kabbalah Publishers.

Laitman says Bogner “truly wants to explore the authentic wisdom of Kabbalah” and “to find the essence and purpose of life—to understand why we live and what is our role in life, and how it relates to humanity’s past, present and future.”

“While he takes a general interest in all of the above, he also zooms in on how people live today and the behavioral psychology of his millennial generation,” Laitman tells JNS. “So he has a very wide range of interests, and I truly enjoy watching him develop.”

Bogner’s forthcoming book, whose working title is “Gates of Impurity,” is a Kabbalah-infused novel in which the surviving Jews of the Middle East live on Shadwan, a landfill off the coast of Egypt, after being ruled by warring Islamic powers for decades.

Laitman says Bogner’s work is unique and impactful due to the author’s exploration of “politics, economics, culture and education, in light of the crisis the world is going through—spiritually, economically and socially. I appreciate his true interest in that, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this special young man continues to grow here among us.”

The Times Of Israel: “Today’s Challenges To Jews And The Lack Of Leadership”

The Times of Israel published my new article “Today’s Challenges to Jews and the Lack of Leadership

The future of the Jewish nation is at stake. Has the time come for a “modern-day Moses” for the Jewish people—a leader, a group, or a movement that will pave the way to unity in the face of the current divisions and conflicts? A type of advance-squadron leadership who addresses the most pressing issues affecting the Jews in the Diaspora and Israel, and bridges the gaps between them?

Internal fragmentation and divisiveness, apathy, assimilation and anti-Semitism are only a few of the Jewish world’s challenges. These problems are clearly evident, but no one is stepping up with solutions or feasible plans to effectively address these issues, which could rapidly escalate and threaten our very existence. We are too busy squabbling with each other while our enemies unite forces against us.

In Europe, anti-Semitism has reached such levels that Jews have been warned not to wear kippot in public for fear of being violently attacked. In Britain, anti-Semitic incidents hit record highs for the second consecutive year with over 100 new cases being recorded every month by watchdog groups. In Germany, a country that previously enforced among the toughest legislation in the world prohibiting the use of Nazi symbols, recently lifted that ban for computer games. The sale of neo-Nazi merchandise and neo-Nazi gatherings at music festivals are no longer taboo. In the US alone, 3,023 incidents of anti-Semitism were reported in 2017 – 2018, the highest level in two decades, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Meanwhile, there is a growing rift between American Jews and Israelis. A significant shift is taking place in the younger generation of American Jews’ views about what it means to be Jewish. Thus, one of the greatest concerns of American Jewry is maintaining the Jewish identity of the next generation, and the memory of the Jewish people, to help avoid existential risks to the Jewish people.

In order to champion these challenges, we need leadership capable of renewing our ideological foundation as a united people. Such leadership should elevate us to the level of unity and mutual responsibility that was once achieved and taught by our patriarch Abraham to the small group called “Israel” before we descended into unfounded hatred, the source of all our troubles and miseries. Very simply, when we unite—not erasing our differences, but rising above them—we succeed and flourish, and our leadership should be predominantly concerned with realizing this principle.

We should aspire to a new leadership capable of learning the principles of the ancient wisdom of Kabbalah, and which can explain how humanity is connected as one integral system. We need leadership that will demonstrate how the Jewish people is a microcosm of the world, a small replica reflecting the whole of humanity, and which can guide us step-by-step in making significant positive changes toward connection and mutual understanding.

The 20th Century’s most renowned Kabbalist, Rav Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), wrote in his “Introduction to the Book of Zohar“: “Bear in mind that in everything there is internality and externality. In the world in general, Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, are considered the internality of the world.” That internal force can be activated in the Jewish people through our connection. It is what the nations of the world subconsciously want from us, dwelling deep within as the core reason behind every expression of anti-Semitism.

Rav Abraham Isaac Kook also emphasizes the importance of our role in his writings Orot (Lights): “Israel is the essence of all existence, and you have no movement in the world, in all nations, which you will not find in Israel.” As our sages convey, our Jewish role is not optional. We are responsible for everything that happens in the world, for better or for worse. It is difficult to understand because we don’t immediately feel it, but with the help of wise leadership that knows how to make this reality plain and accessible to everyone, we will come to see that this is how the system of human connection is structured at a deeper level. Instead of the current state of reacting with knee-jerk responses to hardships and dangers, a wise leadership would prevent such situations from developing in the first place, establishing our unity as our inviolable safeguard.

With the High Holidays approaching, we have a tremendous opportunity for renewal. Now is the time for a leadership that will guide us to achieve the level of “love your friend as yourself” and by doing so, become a “light unto the nations.” This will require a massive educational campaign calling for unity and togetherness. At the time when we achieve the goal of connection, instead of more divisions, conflicts and threats, we will be able to proclaim a true Rosh HaShanah, the beginning of a new year of unity, peace and tranquility for all.

The Times Of Israel: “Seeking: A Spiritual Leader for the Jewish People”

The Times of Israel published my new article “Seeking: A Spiritual Leader for the Jewish People

Among all the powerful, charismatic and innovative figures in the Jewish world, it is still missing a great, unselfish leader who is above materialistic interests, one capable of elevating Israel to be worthy of fulfilling its spiritual role in the world.

Here is a bit of Jewish wisdom (Masechet Iruvin, 13b): “All who woos greatness, greatness escapes him. And all who escapes greatness, greatness woos him.” Such was Moses, the ideal role model for a leader. These days, remembering Moses’ unique leadership might be a good lesson for us all, everyone from you and me, and all the way up to heads of states.

Moses was not an ordinary person. He was a prince. And not an ordinary prince, but the king’s favorite, the one destined to inherit the king, as the Midrash describes it,

“You are saying, ‘And the child grew.’ However, he did not grow as everyone does. …Pharaoh’s daughter would kiss him, cuddle him, and love him as though he was her son. She would not take him out from the king’s palace. And because he was beautiful, everyone longed to see him. One who saw him would not be able to ignore him, and Pharaoh would kiss him and cuddle him. He would take his crown, and Pharaoh would place it on his head, as he was destined to do when he grew up.”

At the same time, Moses was the antithesis of a would-be ruler. He was anything but eloquence, he was an outcast among both Hebrews and Egyptians, and he often failed to understand God, whose message he was carrying. Anyone else would have given up long ago. But not him; he had the quality that we would love to see in today’s leaders: true, unselfish love for his people.

His love enabled him to lead because it connected the people to him and to one another. Moreover, his love eventually implanted a new attribute in them—love of others. When they united at the foot of Mount Sinai, “as one man with one heart,” they became a nation. As long as they continued to adhere to the law of love, always aspiring to follow the motto, “love your neighbor as yourself,” they were able to sustain themselves as a nation.

Like Mordechai in the book of Esther, Moses first unites the people, and thereafter they are rewarded with a miracle and eventual redemption. In the case of Moses it was exodus from Egypt and ultimate arrival at the land of Israel. In the case of Mordechai, it was the eventual return to the land of Israel after the “redemption” from Haman and the return from Persia.

It is no coincidence that unity precedes redemption. Despite numerous attempts to change it, and despite occasional acts of kindness, at its core, human nature is self-centered. It is something that is very evident these days as we look around us and examine our society, and it is something that was known thousands of years ago, hence the verse, “the inclination in a man’s heart is evil from his youth.”

And yet, a society cannot survive only on egoism. It requires balance between giving and receiving. Moses taught the people not to fight their egos, but to rise above it and cover it with love, as in, “Love covers all transgressions.” Just as today we are losing the battle against our egos, therefore becoming increasingly self-centered, the ancient Hebrews could not cope with it. Instead, Moses taught them how to rise above it and establish a covenant of mutual love that facilitated a just and social model based on mutual responsibility.

Indeed, a leader is first and foremost an educator. Moses educated his people toward loving one another and helped them connect above their egos. The Hebrews united around Mount Sinai, which gets its name from the Hebrew word, sinaah (hate). They did not destroy the mountain of hate between them, but sent the most pristine element in their midst, Moses, to climb the mountain, conquer it, and bring down a law (Torah) by which they would be able to establish love among them.

The Torah tells us that the process of establishing a state of “love your neighbor as yourself” was neither smooth nor easy. But ever since it was given on Mount Sinai, it has not changed. When the people of Israel established mutual responsibility, becoming “as one man with one heart,” they were given the tenet, “love your neighbor as yourself,” the great rule of the Torah. At that time the Creator said about them, “This day you have become a people.”

And while the nation was being transformed, Moses was leading the way, always showing more dedication and devotion to his people than anyone else could muster. Thus, the perfect role model was also the perfect leader. Precisely because he had no desire to rule, no money, power, pedigree (being the outcast prince of the enemy), or even eloquence, but only one redeeming quality—love—he was the ideal leader.

Indeed, only a leader who nurtures brotherly love instead of lust for power and self-esteem can succeed in Israel. Israel’s success lies in its unity, and only such a leader can unite the people. If today’s leaders want to pull the wagon of the Jewish people out of the quagmire of anti-Semitism, they must first and foremost focus on uniting Israel. This will be the beginning of our true redemption—from our own egos.

The Times Of Israel: “What Education for Unity Really Means”

The Times of Israel published my new article “What Education for Unity Really Means

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Israel’s Ministry of Education chose the theme of “unity” for the coming school year. “The State of Israel is suffering from division and polarization right now,” says Education Minister Naftali Bennett, “and the cure for this disease is unity and reconciliation through education.”

Indeed, social division is the primary problem in Israeli society. It radiates to all aspects of life and continues to escalate every year. It’s certainly a good thing that the problem lies on the table and elected officials realize it’s not going to solve itself.

I have not yet examined the programs that the Ministry of Education intends to teach in schools over the coming year, but I find it hard to believe that they are aimed at unity based on the laws of nature. More than that, I find it hard to believe that the Ministry has prepared a systematic plan to achieve such this unity.

Ideally, educators would teach about the unity between all parts of nature. The delicate balance and natural bonds that happen across all levels – still objects, plant life, and animal life. The connection between human beings should be introduced as a direct continuation of this – an integral part of the natural system.

Physics, for example, would teach us about the reciprocity between waves and particles that connect to form the different atoms that make up all of reality around us.

Chemistry would teach us how diverse chemical elements merge to form many kinds of materials.

Biology would show, among other things, how metabolism and genetic information transfer occur between cells, tissues and organs that connect to form the living organisms.

At every level, nature is based on different and opposite qualities that connect correctly to create balance, and allow for the evolution of more advanced life forms. Plus and minus, heat and cold, contraction and expansion, ebb and flow, male and female, and so on – life depends on connection between opposites. Polarization and unity are found throughout all of nature.

In both the still, vegetative, and animate worlds, we see mechanisms of connection that evolve over separation and conflict. At the human level, however, these connections evolve consciously.

If, for example, electrons, trees, and ants connect without a need for high awareness, then for us, humans, the awareness of our connection develops in two stages: first, we develop a heightened awareness of the natural “egoism” that separates, and then, we develop an awareness of the natural binding force that connects us above our egoistic differences.

This is the kind of unity that should be featured in the coming school year. A unity based on the unchanging laws of nature – not on weak ethics and morality.

Education is only a means to an end. The goal is to train the human mind and emotion to perceive the mechanism of connection in nature and mimic it consciously. This education will train us to experience a new quality of life. It is not surprising that in the past two decades or so, a slew of findings from various fields of research reveals that when we make positive connections in our social environments we become smarter, more creative, more productive, healthier, and happier.

The Times Of Israel: “The Legacy Of Rav Kook To Jewish Unity”

The Times of Israel published my new article “The Legacy of Rav Kook to Jewish Unity

In the shadow of the skyscrapers in the south of Tel Aviv, the fashionable neighborhood of Neve Tzedek, the first quarter of the city, is bustling with activities. On 21 Ahava Street, in the heart of this neighborhood with its glorious history, stood a small, modest corner house. Behind its ramshackle walls, an enchanted oasis had once served as a meeting place for the most renowned intellectuals and cultural personalities of the Jewish community in Eretz Israel.

S.Y. Agnon, Bialik, the writer Azar, Berl Katznelson, A.D. Gordon and Nahum Gutman were just some of the people who visited the place regularly. They were joined by other visitors such as Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, the undisputed leader of the ultra-Orthodox community in the Old Yishuv (the pre-Zionist Jewish community) in Jerusalem, and many of the most prominent rabbis of the Jewish community in Eretz Israel in the 1920s.

Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook (HaRaAYaH), the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi in pre-state Israel, was one of the most prominent personalities in the history of the Jewish people. A brilliant thinker with a poet’s spirit, but above all a great Kabbalist, Rav Kook devoted his life to translating the principles of Kabbalah — first and foremost the love of others—into the language and path that the young people could relate to in their quest for the identity that had crystallized in the country at the turn of the century. Notwithstanding his many writings, the image of Rav Kook remained a mystery.

Rav Kook’s expansive heart was a spiritual junction in which the world of Haskalah (enlightenment) and secular intellect intersected with the spiritual world, the Torah, and the Lithuanian Halakhah.

His warm and intense love for human beings melted the iron barriers and the contradictions between the different factions of the settlers. He saw the secular settlers who came to the Land of Israel and the Haredim as partners in a spiritual, united society that he wished to establish.

In the early years of the Zionist enterprise, it was the division and polarization of the Jewish community that tore his heart to shreds. He devoted his thoughts to one goal only: finding the right way to unify the nation, first and foremost the connection between the two poles, the secular and the religious.

Many derogatory remarks were leveled against him for his “affection” toward the “Zionists,” who were considered secular, as compiled in the book The Spiritual Revolution of Rav Kook. “They build the land,” Rav Kook often said. “And the Land of Israel is an opportunity for us to begin a period of spiritual and material prosperity. We only have to know how to implement it correctly.”

As a direct continuation of the great Kabbalists who worked before him, the Land of Israel was viewed by Rav Kook as a new spiritual step in which the people returning to Zion were required to realize their spiritual role. He believed that the Land of Israel was given to the people of Israel in order to form a spiritual exemplary society, a hotbed for the work in which one must cultivate the desire for inner transcendence, far beyond the territorial aspect.

For Rav Kook, the return to Israel after years of long exile symbolized the beginning of the return of the Jewish people to the realization of the spiritual idea upon which it was founded, a place for the observance of a spiritual life, out of unity that transcends the narrow egoistic existence.

Like Rav Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), the most renowned Kabbalist of the 20th Century and friend of Rav Kook, both rabbis warned on many occasions that we should not settle solely for the technical existence of external customs and symbols. From the heights of his spiritual attainment, Rav Kook looked at the Israeli reality and determined that the return to the Land of Israel had indeed ended the period of external exile, but the internal exile was not yet over.

The internal division between the ranks of the people was perceived as the root of all troubles, and he therefore emphasized that the secret of the true strength of the Jewish people is in connection, and that unity and spirituality are equal. More than once, he argued that only when we unite in love of others over the egoistic nature that erodes us, can we rise to the spiritual level and live here in peace and tranquility.

As a man of action, Rav Kook was not satisfied with the flourishing of philosophical ideas and sophistication. In the fall of 1913, he headed a special delegation of ten rabbis to the famous “Masah HaMoshavot” (tour of the agricultural settlements.)

During the dangerous journey, the rabbis rode in a convoy of mule carts, in the train cars of the “Valley Train” (a train from Haifa to the Jordan River), and even on a boat, all in order to have an encounter between the members of the old Yishuv, the moshavim and the kibbutzim. One of the most famous stories that expresses Rav Kook’s worldview occurred in the dining room of Kibbutz Merhavia.

Upon their arrival, the rabbis were received coldly. Their entry into the dining room was accompanied by suspicious looks. One of the settlers rose to his feet and shouted, “Don’t waste your work and speeches. You will not influence anyone here.” Great confusion and astonishment prevailed. Rav Kook broke the tension and turned to him with a warm voice and said softly, “We did not come to influence, we came to be influenced.”

Unlike many of his colleagues, Rav Kook did not look at the pioneers with condescension or arrogance. He saw the pioneers of Merhavia as organic parts of one human fabric, working harmoniously and with significant inner effort to realize the purpose of creation.

“Love” was not an abstract concept in his eyes, but a practical and perfect expression of the sense of deep connection that exists among all “organs of the body” in their corrected state. He reiterated that the destiny of the people of Israel is to be a special organ whose role is to pave the way for the entire body, and to illuminate the ultimate goal for all humanity’s benefit. We must strive to realize this role and spread the principles of the wisdom of truth with all our strength, until the spiritual power inherent in it will emerge from power and be revealed in full bloom.

Eighty-three years have passed since the death of Rav Kook, and in the reality of our divided lives, his enormous absence is felt more than ever. It is precisely the crumbling Israeli society that lives in the Land of Israel that needs the conciliatory spirit of Rav Kook.

It is not surprising that most of Rav Kook’s writings begin with the word “Orot” (“lights”) and are named after the light. The Israeli light still emanates from the windows of his house, gleaming radiantly, full of purity, and inviting us to walk through the front gates and enter his former abode. It seems that the little house is still open and inviting, and its neighbors are part of that united body he saw in his mind that climbs up to the peak of spiritual consciousness.

The Times Of Israel: “A Review Of Anti-Semitism in America After The Unite The Right 2 Rally”

The Times of Israel published my new article “A Review of Anti-Semitism in America After the Unite the Right 2 Rally

Let’s be realistic. The magnitude of racism and anti-Semitism in America cannot be measured by the low attendance at the recent Unite the Right 2 rally, the one-year commemoration of the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, which had resulted in death and violence. Fewer people may have participated this time around, but statistics show that hatred just got reloaded.

At last year’s rally, hundreds of white nationalists brandished torches chanting “Jews will not replace us,” but it was only the tip of the iceberg. According to the Anti-Defamation League, in 2017 and 2018, there were 3,023 extremist or anti-Semitic incidents across the United States.

If we look beneath the surface we will see that this struggle transcends political affiliation and skin color. At the heart of the sentiment of visceral hate is a very specific target group, Jews. University of Chicago historian, David Nirenberg, says that this phenomenon “should not be understood as some archaic or irrational closet in the vast edifices of Western thought. It was rather one of the basic tools with which that edifice was constructed.”

Hatred of Jews requires no justifications. It lies in the collective subconscious of the nations of the world. As Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag wrote in his essay “The Writings of the Last Generation”: “It is a fact that Israel is hated by all the nations, whether for religious, racial, capitalist, communist, or for cosmopolitan reasons, etc. It is so because the hatred precedes all reasons, but each merely resolves its loathing according to its own psychology.”

An in-depth analysis of the challenges faced by Jews demands a zoomed-out view of the issue in the context of humanity’s development. The wisdom of Kabbalah explains that the human milestones started in mid-1900s, a turning point for humanity, when it finished its egoistic development and transitioned to an interdependent and interconnected existence.

This new reality manifests at all levels of human activity: economy, technology, trade and communication. In order to further develop harmoniously, a new attitude toward positive human connection is required, one that matches the level of interdependence that we see we’ve reached through such systems.

Gradually, people from all walks of life, races, religions, beliefs and nationalities must acquire the skills to positively integrate into an interdependent society, i.e. to create an atmosphere of support, encouragement and friendship above divisive tendencies. Back in ancient Babylon, during the time of Abraham the Patriarch, the Jewish people were given the method of connection that gives every human being the tools to unite with others, above difference. The Jewish people were the first to receive it and are obliged to pass it on to the world becoming a “light unto the nations.”

This special method of connection is the wisdom of Kabbalah. It teaches us how to rise above our ego, the powerful force that tears us apart. By using its roadmap, we create a positive magnetic field, an altruistic force to balance our egoistic inclination and actions.

Therefore, as soon as Jews create a model of society based on solidarity and mutual understanding, they will rise to the same frequency of connection and love that underlies nature. They will harmonize with the positive force, the supreme power that will then permeate reality.

Thus, broken relations between people, manifested as Nazism, racism, and hatred of all kinds will be transformed into a balanced coexistence for humanity as a whole.