The Great Schism

It was John F. Kennedy’s inauguration day. He was talking about the great potential of the American people united. He then said something that would aptly describe the state of the Jewish people today, especially in Israel.

“United, there is little we cannot do. Divided, there is little we can do.”

Today’s Jews would anger, upset and hurt our ancestors and the previous generations of Jews who dreamed of a day that they’d eradicate baseless hatred from a nation that had enough hatred to write multitudes of history books. There are division in every which way. When we hope for one family of Jews, one nation, we find ourselves with 30 million. Having friends and family in many spectrums of the divide, the divisions in Judaism hurts the very essence of me that yearns for a third temple.

I went for a walk around the old city, these very thoughts circling my mind. I arrived at the Kotel, Friday night, the Ma’ariv prayer is just beginning. I see all sorts of Jews but it’s the last thing I want to see. I had never seen divisions like this before. There were about 6 Minyanim there. One, with a lot of energy, the religious IDF soldiers prayed in one Minyan in the middle taking up the most space. The other Minyanim included Haredim, Yeshivish and others. This much, I can understand, after all, there are different Minhagim, different customs.

Then came the real heart-breaker. Several of the minyanim, separately began to dance. The songs they sung differed, the circles they created were multiple. I could see and hear a division.

Selichot at the Kotel is just another place where we see the lines that must be bridged.
Selichot at the Kotel is just another place where we see the lines that must be bridged.

The problem is not the separate dancing, not the different minyanim or the different songs. The problem is what it represents. There are so many factions of Judaism and the rift is deep between them all. Haredi Rabbis blame Zionists for their problems. Hasidic sects have beef even amongst themselves. The yeshivish world, cannot meet any other group on each end. Rabbis blast Rabbis and divisions become incredibly ridiculous.

There is an idea that the third temple, the messiah, will come when all Jews are united, alike how the second one was destroyed after divisions among fellow Jews. I believe that this is true. Israel is in a position like never before. The Jews have a homeland, a practically Jewish army that serves to defend Israel and the Jewish people. They have a Jewish government that at times is reminiscent of the ones talked about in Tanach. So where’s the temple? Where is the shrine that supposedly lit up not just Jerusalem but the whole world?

As I stand at the Kotel, just feet away from the former location of the magnificent Temple built by Herrod The Great (technically renovated but the Talmud states that if you didn’t see Herrod’s temple, you never saw a beautiful building in your life), I knew that the problem was right in front of the solution. I immediately saw a catch 22 scenario. On the one hand, the temple would be built when all Jews are united and on the other hand, nothing could unite world Jewry like a third temple.

What makes us a divided nation? When did this originate? What amount of division is of a natural and healthy mean of indicating individuality and what amount is tearing this nation at the seams? It’s okay for the IDF soldiers to dress and talk differently than the Haredim. It’s okay for Sefardim to eat different and better than Ashkenazim. It’s okay for someone to want to live in Israel in his homeland and another Jew to say that he wants no part in that. We can differ in opinion but the time has come to respect each other’s opinions. Respect where we differ and emulate in where we are the same. We may wear different kippahs but we share a history. We may have different Payot, different beards but we are fundamentally the same.

I imagine a magical time where we don’t care if our kids are playing with Haredim and they don’t care that theirs are playing with Zionists. A day that while we differ in opinions, dress and diet, we can dance together at the Kotel as children of Hashem and if the Torah. Hashem loves us all, let’s follow in his way.

About the Author
Shai Reef is a Political Science student at York University.