Sacha Roytman Dratwa

Our unity is breaking, but not beyond repair

Just like our enemies of old, those who wish us ill will and harm see our cracks today and increase their hope and attacks

The Jerusalem Talmud describes the unity of the Jewish people as one body. Different parts have different roles, disparate agendas and various ways of looking at and seeing the world. However, if all the composite parts do not have one common goal and each move in its own direction, the body can not move and thus becomes vulnerable.

Of course, the Jewish People have always had their internal disagreements, often vehemently, but our ultimately miraculous survival depended on coming together when necessary, despite the extreme pressure from without and within.

Today, on the eve of Pesach, when the State of Israel and the Jewish People as a whole are split as much as ever, we must keep in mind the symbolism of the Passover holiday that can hopefully remind us of the need for unity.

There are many commentaries about the meaning of Matza, the unleavened bread we eat throughout the holiday. One of the most common is that Matza denotes humility because it has no time to rise and become full, unlike regular leavened bread. It keeps us grounded and humble, which is an absolute necessity if we are to be open to listen to the voices of others, especially our Jewish brothers and sisters.

There is a lot of pain and anguish in the Jewish world, whether around the Israeli government’s attempts to reform the judicial system, different Jewish practices and ideologies, and a plethora of other disagreements.

However, the Pesach Seder teaches us something very important to keep in mind.

During the early part of the Seder we break the middle Matza and set one part aside for the Afikoman.

The two parts of the middle Matza are thus separated for most of the night, but eventually they are brought back together. 

This is an important symbolism that we must use today.

Our parting is temporary, our wholeness is permanent.

This is vital because today while we might be more focused inwards on what divides us, our enemies see the cracks in our unity and try and make them wider and possibly permanent.

Whether it is the centrifuges in Iran, the annihilationist rhetoric from Hizbollah, and Hamas the genocidal terror organization and other Palestinian terrorist groups threatening the lives of millions with its rockets and promoting Jew-hatred. Jews across the world are seeing an increase of violence and hatred from the extreme right and left, and radical Islam. 

Throughout history, our greatest enemies were able to strike at us when the Jewish People were divided. In the Purim story, we learn that Haman was able to see in the Jews a house divided, far too intensely focused on their disagreements, dissent and differences, and thus inherently vulnerable.

So too, we learn that the Second Temple period came to an end because of baseless hatred amongst the Jewish People of that commonwealth.

There are countless other examples up to the modern age.

It is not to say that we should not have and enunciate our differences and grievances, that is very much in the spirit of our ancient tradition which always empowered and emphasized debate, discussion and deliberation.

Disagreements should be celebrated, but when they become the focus and they evolve into hatred and enmity, we need to be worried.

We are hopefully not there yet, but the current rhetoric is moving into dangerous places. 

Our enemies are listening and paying heed. We only have to listen to Hizbollah’s General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah’s recent speech when he predicted the fall of the State of Israel within five years because of our disunity.

It is less relevant whether this is wishful thinking or the rantings of an anti-Semite. The fact is, it is representative of the feelings of many who seek our demise, whether on the far-Left or far-Right around the world.

They are emboldened by the images they see and the poisonous oratory they hear. This gives them hope that we become weaker as a people, as one body, increasingly vulnerable to their attacks.

In a few days, the overwhelming majority of the Jewish People will sit down to the Pesach Seder, the night which has become a favorite time of the year to come together as a family. 

We will all arrive with different opinions, grievances and ideologies, but we will sit and discuss our past as a people, narrating our common story moving from oppressed slaves to free people. 

Among many families, especially those with little children, the hiding and seeking of the Afikoman is a central part because of the joy of looking for the hidden piece when the finder is rewarded.

Nevertheless, let the greater reward be the arrival of the Afikoman back to the table symbolizing the return to wholeness. This is something we need to keep in mind not just on the night of the Seder, but at every other time.

Just like our enemies of old, those who wish us ill will and harm see our cracks today and increase their hope and attacks.

Our return to wholeness at critical junctures is what sustained us for millennia, even when we were broken, almost beyond repair. Regardless of how far we feel apart from each other, let the tradition of the Afikoman demonstrate the hope and yearning of a return to wholeness and unity. 

This approach is our philosophy at the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), where we build coalitions to confront hatred. Among our partners and within our coalition we don’t always agree but we find ways to collaborate, and while it might not be easy, there are no alternatives.

This must also be the path for the different parts of our nation.

About the Author
Sacha Roytman Dratwa is CEO of the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), a global coalition engaging over 650 organizations and nearly 3.5 million people from a diverse array of religious, political, and cultural backgrounds in the common mission of fighting the world’s oldest hatred.