Much has been said about the spirit of unity that has infused the Jewish nation since October 7. Many people, and their friends, community members, and family, in the United States and in Israel, have been deeply moved by the crumbling of barriers between Jews. We are all one nation! has brought people to tears, in gratitude mixed with shame that it took a barbaric attack to bring us together.
And yet, I am sure I am not the only one who is wondering: Will it last? I pray to God every day for victory and for peace. And should the future unfold with this good outcome for our people, will the unity stay strong? Will we continue to look at one another as friends, giving the benefit of the doubt and extending peaceful thoughts toward one another? Or will fissures creep in, and widen until our factions break apart again?
There is only one answer to that: It depends on you.
Will you reflect on what you were doing and thinking before, that caused you to feel separate from others?
Have you spent time reflecting about what convictions you had had, about other people and their positions, which were wrong?
Have you taken a deep breath, and hung your head, and realized with humility that you judged and dismissed with undue authority?
If you are quick to point out that someone else is the problem, then part of the problem is you.
Let me be clear: I don’t mean to suggest that lasting unity will be achieved through a dreamy lovingkindness in which differences magically evaporate. I do mean to suggest that each person be responsible for their own feelings. That each person use their mind to think, and be open to hearing other perspectives, before charging down any road of speech or action.
There is a specific order that distinguishes people of wisdom from people who are rash. That order is that thought, not strength of feeling, precedes conviction in your position. We all should be thinking before we commit to our perspectives. Thinking involves reason, and rationality, and the humility to hear ideas that may undermine what you were sure was right. It means that no matter how strong your feelings, how fiery or passionate or absolutely right that you feel, you use your mind and reroute your energies, as it were, if your mind sees a different argument makes sense.
It’s hard to do. It can be socially trying. But it is one sure solution to lasting internal peace within the Jewish people.
If we do this, each of us; if we act with introspection, honesty, and self-possession, with reason, rationality, and self-control, we will fulfill our role to be “a wise and discerning people” (Devarim 4:6) among the nations.