Will American Jewry survive the great divide?
The Three Weeks – the time between the 17th of Tammuz, when the Romans broke the walls of Jerusalem and entered the city that had been devastated from within, and the 9th of Av, when the conquerors destroyed the Temple – remind us that Palestinian terrorism, however painful, is not the greatest threat to the State of Israel. Rather, our hatred for our co-religionists is by far more dangerous to worldwide Jewry, and to the nation-state of the Jews, namely Israel.
While Roman legions camped outside the city walls, the Jews within Jerusalem mercilessly slaughtered one another. “The commanders of the Romans deemed this sedition among [the Jews in Jerusalem] to be of great advantage to them,” wrote Josephus Flavius in The Wars of the Jews (Book IV, Chapter 6). Vespasian, who oversaw the suppressing of the Jewish revolt, wrote to his commanders on the ground: “The providence of God is on our side by setting our enemies against one another . ... God acts as a general of the Romans better than I can do, and is giving the Jews up to us without any pains of our own [through their own sedition] .... ”
“The Jews are vexed to pieces every day by their civil wars and dissensions,” wrote Flavius, himself a Jew who turned against his own people. “I venture to affirm,” concludes Flavius (Book V, Chapter 6), “that the sedition destroyed the city, and the Romans destroyed the sedition. Thus, we may justly ascribe our misfortunes to our own people.”
Throughout history, our most formidable haters have felt that by persecuting the Jews they were executing God’s commandment. Josephus Flavius wrote that the Jews “entirely lost mercy among them,” and “trampled upon all the laws of men, and laughed at the laws of God” (The Wars of the Jews, Book IV, Chapter 6).
Likewise, according to historian and Reform Rabbi Jacob Rader Marcus, at the moment of signing the decree to expel the Jews from Spain, Queen Isabella told the representatives of the Jews: “‘The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes’ (Proverbs, 21:1). Do you believe that this comes upon you from us? The Lord has put this thing into the heart of the king.”
The archenemy of the Jewish people, Adolf Hitler, also felt he was doing God’s will. In Mein Kampf he wrote, “Eternal Nature inexorably avenges the infringement of her commands. Hence, today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”
The Jewish nation was established at the foot of Mount Sinai when its members committed to unite “as one man with one heart.” Immediately after, the Jews were commanded to be “a light unto nations,” namely to spread that unity throughout the world. Rav Kook succinctly summed up the role of the Jewish people: “The purpose of Israel is to unite the world into a single family.”
This commitment is why preceding every major devastation that befell the Jews was a period of intense rejection of our commitment to each other and to the world. Instead of striving to become a role model of unity, we nurture mutual hatred and division. When our desire to walk out on our vocation translates into the desire to mingle among the nations and dissolve our Jewish identity, it triggers an intense rejection among the nations, which we interpret as antisemitism.
Today’s American Jewry is undergoing the same process of denial of its heritage and vocation. If this process continues, it will bring with it the same dire consequences that our nation has experienced countless times. On July 16, Emma Green of The Atlantic published a fascinating essay detailing approaches among Jews concerning interfaith marriages. The essay exposed the depth of the chasm afflicting American Jewry, and its growing disregard for our heritage. In the words of Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, “Ultimately, we’re headed toward one of the greatest divisions in the history of the Jewish people.”
“What some people fear, on both sides of the intermarriage debate,” adds Green, “is that Jews will no longer be one people, but rather two peoples recognized according to radically different standards.”
Rabbi Felicia Sol of the B’nai Jeshurun Conservative synagogue echoed Green’s words: “We could lose a generation, if not the future of Jewish life.”
But American Jewry will not disappear. As always happens, just before the Jews completely dissolve within their host nation, the tables turn on them, and hospitality becomes hostility. In Spain, as well as in Germany, the Jews did not see their end approaching. They were too complacent to notice its approach. By the time they awoke, it was too late.
Regardless of our wishes, Jews are never part of the local culture. They always are and always will be held to a higher standard than all other nations, as indicated by the repeated condemnations of the Jewish state in the United Nations.
Jews will always be accused of all the wrongs in the world, not because they are wrong-doers, but because they are not right-doers. That is, they are not bringing the “light” of unity unto the nations. This is why in Sefat Emet it is written, “Everything depends on the children of Israel. As they correct themselves, all of Creation follows them.”
We are truly Jewish only when we place the tenet “Love your neighbor as yourself” above all else. When we abandon this mindset, we begin to bicker over who is a better Jew than whom, and from this point on we are certain to end in doom. Especially today, our duty as Jews is to nurture our unity above all differences because, as the Romans noticed, our strength is in our unity. As long as we condone separation between us, we are hastening the arrival of another ruin on our people.
The writer has a PhD in Philosophy and Kabbalah and an MSc in Medical Bio-Cybernetics. He has written over 40 books, which have been translated into dozens of languages.
MEMBERS of Women of the Wall are heckled by haredi protestes at the Western Wall. Our hatred for our co-religionists is dangerous to worldwide Jewry.