There is a wave of terror in the State of Israel these days. Even when terrorists do not succeed in their attempts to murder innocent civilians in their homes or on the street, there is not a day without several attempts. The tension and the common anxiety are creating a sense of solidarity that Israelis do not feel during quieter times. Regrettably, when the wave subsides, we can expect Israelis to return to the normalcy of internal bickering, division, and mutual contempt that are the causes of the endless waves of violence against us. Hostility toward Israel will end when Israelis rise above their hostility toward each other.
On the one hand, missiles over our heads and terrorists on our streets are an awful reality. On the other hand, in a state of immediate danger, the picture is clear: An enemy has come to kill us and we must work together to protect ourselves. The fear creates a sense of togetherness, which in turn engenders unity. People’s willingness to help each other, make concessions, and be kind to one another creates a warm feeling of closeness.
It is good, but it is not enough because it does not last one day beyond the end of the violence against us. “In that sense, we are like a pile of nuts, united into a single body from the outside by a sack that envelops and unites them.” This is how Baal HaSulam, the great 20th century kabbalist, described it. “Their measure of unity,” he continues, “does not make them a united body, and each movement applied to the sack produces in them tumult and separation. Thus, they consistently arrive at new unions and partial aggregations. The fault is that they lack the inner unity, and their whole force of unity comes through outside incidents.”
Our greatest challenge, therefore, is to build a connection, a sense of unity that will remain in times of peace, and not only as a comfort or as support in times of war. It is vital that we achieve it. Unity is our shield at all times, and the lack thereof brings upon us trouble. “When Israel’s unity is restored,” writes the book Shem MiShmuel, “evil will have no place in which to install error and external forces within them, for when they are as one man with one heart, they are as a fortified wall against the forces of evil.”
The book Maor VaShemesh echoes these words, saying, “The primary defense against calamity is love and unity. When there are love, unity, and friendship between one another in Israel, no calamity can befall them and by that, all the curses and suffering are banished.”
We therefore see that unity is not a shield we should erect when troubles come upon the Jewish people. Unity is our instrument for achieving success, prosperity, and safety.
Moreover, because of Israel’s unique position and calling in the world, when there are peace and unity within Israel, it brings peace to the entire world. The Book of Zohar writes that when Israel are divided, “Woe unto them, for they cause poverty and ruin, looting and killing, and destruction in the world.”
Baal HaSulam quotes the words of The Zohar and adds, “In such a generation, all the destructors among the nations of the world raise their heads and wish primarily to destroy and to kill the children of Israel, as it is written (Yevamot 63), ‘No calamity comes to the world but for Israel.’” In other words, antisemitism and the aspiration to destroy the State of Israel and the Jewish people are the result of the Jews’ own hatred for each other.
In his essay “Introduction to The Book of Zohar,” Baal HaSulam draws a very clear conclusion as to what Jews must do following the horrors of the Holocaust. “After, through our many faults, we have witnessed all that is said, …and of all the glory that Israel had had in the countries of Poland and Lithuania, etc., there remains but the relics in our holy land, now it is upon us, relics, to correct that dreadful wrong.” And the way to correct this, he suggests, is through our unity.
His contemporary, the great Rav Kook, writes very similarly. “The world, which is now falling to the dreadful storms of the blood-streaked sword,” he begins with his eloquent style, “requires the establishment of the Israeli nation. The establishment of the nation and the revelation of its spirit are one and the same, and it is one with the construction of the world, which is crumbling and yearning for a force full of unity and sublimity, which is found only in the soul of Israel.” Therefore, he concludes, “This great hour [calls] on all the forces in the nation: ‘Awaken and arise to your duty!’”
If we are true to our calling, then the next time guns stop roaring, an internal war will not begin.