It is in these stressfully precarious times, with a growing, world-enveloping economic crisis and the looming threat of Iran, that I found myself in a very interesting meeting. A meeting so delicate and intensely profound that it brought me to wonder in awe about the future we are all about to be living.
Maybe it will be completely terrible and chaotic, politically, financially, socially and ecologically – but maybe not. Maybe we’ll pull through and find it to be uplifting and transforming.
I found myself sitting together with my old university professor, the big-hearted and wise psychologist Dr. Kalman Kaplan, an expert in Biblical Psychology and the author of the TILT: Teaching Individuals to Live Together model, and one whose depths I cannot fathom: Dr. Michael Laitman, scientist and...Kabbalist. It was not your ordinary discussion about where we are and where we are heading; there was a very pressing feeling that something big needs to happen, and that it can only happen through the collaboration of many.
The topic was us. Jews.
What is going on with us, our identity, our strengths? Are we aware? Are we awake? Are we tapping in to our great ancient wisdom and do we see how relevant it is to today’s issues? Sadly, everyone around the table agreed that the situation is less than favorable.
So many Jews in America have lost touch with their biblical values and identities, Dr. Kaplan reported. The rich psychological wisdom that could teach us all how to live together is rarely made use of, he said. And what more do we need in a global, interconnected world, than to learn how to live together?
This is the role and the light we were always meant to bring to the world, said Dr. Laitman. It is in these days of growing interdependence and a gradually revealing crisis of relationship that we can finally do our job. We talked about the trends of extreme individualism that were at the basis of the multi-faceted crisis. In such an intricately woven system of ties and interconnectedness, the lack of shared values followed by reckless self-concern results in dangerous imbalance, Dr. Laitman explained. Dr. Kaplan added that the Jewish tradition emphasizes the right blend between self and other.
So yes, I thought, we all know that “Love thy neighbor as yourself” is the highest law, but how do we achieve it? How do we merge self and other in such a smooth way as to bring ourselves and the system we are part of into balance? How do we build a bridge across all our differences; our differing points of view, traditions and habits? I remembered the forces that enabled us to build the state of Israel against all odds, and realized that what we need is a powerful and deep shared purpose.
RABBI KOOK wrote that “unity which comes from the demand of one’s own good, which is for the sake of each individual’s personal good, is a random unity, which is based on an individual’s self-love, and it will not last, for it has no true center. And even when this so-called unity grows, it will end up in the flames of hatred and civil war, since each individual pulls in the direction of his own fulfillment. But the unity that comes from the acknowledgment of the value of the higher purpose, which comes only through the good of others, is based upon the true love of all, and it will last, and the longer it does, the greater and stronger it will be.”
It is interesting to note how hard times push us closer together; we manage to collaborate, to help each other and feel a togetherness that is uniquely powerful. It’s because of the shared purpose of survival that we can suddenly transcend our petty arguments and differences.
Imagine how wonderful it would be if these pressures (Iran, the economy, our ecology) only served as triggers to remind us of our true, positive common purpose, of life as a unified, loving people, setting an example to all.
I learned from Dr. Laitman that Kabbalah is the inner teachings of the Torah, and that it speaks exactly of this. It is all about knowing yourself, and learning to love others, to discover the power that is found in connection. It’s a sense of connection that we already know deep inside and need to reawaken; as is written, thousands of years ago it kept our nation strong, and its loss brought about the destruction of the temple and the great exile.
I agreed with him that we would all benefit greatly if we could just remember what it is that we have, buried deep in our consciousness and on our bookshelves. Creating educational programs that would teach and remind us of the great treasures of our tradition and how to make them relevant to our daily lives, whether you are secular or observant, would assist in uniting us and bringing back our Jewish identity.
It would not be the identity we may experience now, the one that so many have walked away from for more “modern” and “free” definitions. It would be a deeper, much more expanded and empowered one, an acknowledgment of our purpose and responsibility.
The two scholars spoke gravely of how much we have forgotten. They said we need a shofar, a horn to awaken our sleeping brothers to collaborate for the sake of our higher, root cause. Dr. Laitman mentioned the Ari Institute, which has been creating programs that teach the laws of integrality, of how we all need to live in this new global world harmoniously with the natural, interconnected system we are part of; programs that teach the tools that we need to be ourselves, and to love others just the same.
I was glad to hear that such options are already available. More than anything, our world needs love, connection and inspiration.
I never would have believed it, but I discovered that these missing ingredients were always there, right under my nose, in my own tradition. Maybe I am the only one who is surprised, but what is certain is that these tools; this wisdom, needs to be actualized so that we could walk out of this crisis not as victims but as heroes. It is time for “Jewish” to mean hero; a hero that knows himself, that knows how to overcome his own ego and to love others, teaching others how to do the same.
What a meeting it was. I left feeling somewhat concerned, because it seemed like there was so much to do. But I was also glad, because it seemed that there was so much we CAN do. And really, it would only take awareness to change things around.
I know that the awareness and collaboration of the many great people who are reading this can make it happen. To stand up to the constantly rising trends of anti-Semitism, to give an example of the only true solution to our crises, to give hope to all – let’s remember who we are, let’s bring our nation, and the world some light.
The writer is an MA student at the social-organizational psychology department at Bar- Ilan University. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and political science from Tel Aviv University. She is a member of the Arvut movement, a graduate of the Israeli Leadership Institute, and for years has been active in Israel advocacy with the Jewish agency and the World Zionist Organization.