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Keeping the Focus on Unity

Keeping the Focus on Unity


It is said that when Henry Kissinger became Secretary of State, Golda Meir, then Prime Minister of Israel, wrote him a congratulatory letter expressing her hope for a solid relationship between the two countries. Kissinger quickly wrote to remind her that he was “first American, then Secretary of State, and lastly a Jew.” Golda Meir shot back an answer reminding him that in Israel they always read from right to left.

Cute story. But isn’t it incredible how a small adjustment of perspective can significantly change the way we view ourselves and the world around us?

We wonder how to create unity and cohesion out of such chaos and diversityLook at the world. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the diversity of values people espouse—to the point where we may feel certain that those values are totally incompatible. We wonder how to create unity and cohesion out of such chaos and diversity. It becomes easy to assume that our own viewpoints are irreconcilable, and that people with different viewpoints are inherently apart.

Our Sages call this the beit view, referring to the first letter of the first word in the Torah, Bereishit, Genesis. Bet is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, with a numeric value of two, representing the creation of a world of duality.

Then there is the aleph view, that the universe, with all its complexities, is part of a total unity, created by a Power of One. Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and has a numeric value of one, representing G‑d and oneness.

For an easy example of the aleph view at work, take a quick look at the human body. The body is a complicated composite of millions of cells, neurotransmitters, organs, bones, water, minerals, and miles of blood vessels. But, no matter how much we learn about the body and its complexities, we still regard a person as one body. We do not consider a person in terms of the parts he or she is comprised of. Even when organs are damaged, or poison runs through the bloodstream, we still refer to it as a single body.

The Torah teaches that man was created in the image of G‑d, and the Talmudic sages comment that our total makeup is actually a “small world,” reflective of the “big world.” In this sense, our bodies can teach us much about the workings of the universe at large. When we look at the world, it’s too easy to see it for what it appears to be on its outer surface. Only when we go beneath the surface do we begin to appreciate the complexity of the world. Science has taught us just how fascinating and balanced the universe is, and how important it is to look beneath the surface.

But even if we feel the oneness of the universe, we are still faced with the great lack of harmony amongst human beings. How do we bring unity into a realm which appears so disparate?

The obvious question is why. Why is there so much diversity amongst people? Why do the extremes of left and right, good and evil, light and darkness, have to be so radical? Why is it often easier to hate than to love, to destroy than to build, to doubt than to believe? Why is it so difficult to experience this unity?

The chassidic masters explain that the Hebrew word for “world,” olam, has the same root as the word for “concealment,” he’elem. G‑d hid the unity well, so that we would have the free choice to look beneath the surface and find it on our own. This unity is found in the soul—the spark of G‑d inside each person. If this unity were apparent, we would not have free choice, and there would be no purpose in our existence.

If this unity were apparent, we would not have free choice, and there would be no purpose in our existenceG‑d gave human beings the challenge, and the tools, to bring this unity closer and closer to the surface. This role makes us “partners” with the Creator in the process of uniting the spiritual realm, a place of unity, with the physical realm, a place of apparent diversity, in order to show the inherent oneness of both. Our challenge is simply to see how we can bring that oneness, which is part and parcel of the universe’s makeup, closer to the surface. In other words, to bring the aleph into the beit.

Every time we do a mitzvah or a good deed, every opportunity we use to choose light over darkness, every chance we have to look beneath the surface to find unity in a place of diversity or conflict, we are creating a greater level of unity.

The goal, for which humanity has longed since the times of the prophets, is to work towards a world in which oneness and unity will be reality, when the aleph and the beit will be united, and when we will not even consider diversity to be a cause of conflict.

Rabbi Tuvia Teldon is the chief Chabad-Lubavitch representative in Long Island, NY, and Director of the Jewish Academy of Suffolk County. He lives in Commack with his wife Chaya, and together they have five children and a growing family.
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Anonymous OOB, ME, USA via November 6, 2011

free will I struggle a lot with this concept. Because many things are Hashem's Will. We have free will, we make choices, but outcomes are up to Hashem. So, I guess, all we can do is try, pray, do mitzvot and study Torah. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma November 4, 2011

asking profound questiond I believe we are fast moving, being moved, into an opening of consciousness that will sweep the world, a world now weeping from so many destructive ways of being. I deeply perceive a Divine timetable. It is not easy for me to say this. I fall down at each and every atrocity both personal and cosmic, as in obvious disaster that we still term Acts of
G-d. So I go to the Wall on these things as I must, as do we all, being gifted humanity, a sense of wrong that cannot and will not admit life's cruelties.

I do deeply perceive a story that if we were privy to what we are not, on this plane of existence, brings us all to another place and perhaps ultimately we must forgive G-d because the story continues with joy and we were none of us forsaken. We walk through the desert, feeling abandoned, but the ultimate journey is Love.

We watered the desert with tears. Have you seen the desert in bloom? I will never forget my first time. And sabra is for cactus. We are ALL in this together. Reply

David Chester Petach Tikva, Israel November 4, 2011

To Ruth Housman Thanks for seing my problem. Boiled down what you are saying is that there is a Divine plan of which we are a part. In this case we can draw comfort from the fact that our decisions (free or not) are a part and they may hasten the passage of days for the Messiah to arrive here.

Since this is pre-ordained (by your way of thinking) will you at least admit that we still have the power to slow down or speed up this joyous anticipated event? Is this the extent of our free-will? Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma November 3, 2011

Re David Chester you bring up a salient point about free will, and that is, IF we are moving towards a Messianic era, and since this is preordained, then G_d has to be moving us all to make this happen. So where is free will in this equation? A profound conundrum.

I believe, within a framework that is predestined, we have the climb, towards merger, and that merger brings us towards massive compassion and love, which is the mandate. The stories that move us forward are tailored to each of us, so we are doing a cosmic dance in which there is a learning curve. Since the universe HAD to be created this way, in that the created can never be independent fully of the creator, G_d wrote us into a story that brings us to the increasing realization that all is actually Divine. To acknowledge this Love is to want to move forward up Jacob's ladder choosing empathic ways of being. So we will WANT what G_d wants of us.

Hard to convey. I don't see us as puppets.G_d needs and loves us. I am so happy to be alive! JOY Reply

chana cedarhurst, NY November 3, 2011

Ahavas Yisroel Thank you for this inspiring article Rabbi Teldon. I belong to a group of women part of a larger group where we learn about the Halachas of Ahavas Yisroel. Your article is another look at how we are able to achieve that unity. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma November 2, 2011

partnership There is light within this word, NER being for Light. We are part, a part, and partners in the greatest story ever told. This is a script only a Divine hand could write, and we all have a hand in making something of great Wonder, of great One der, take place, and I know it WILL.

And yes, in many ways, it's about free will, or the freeing of will, to get the job done, as tikkun olam is the mandate. There is a date here, as dates are also to palms and so it is, palms are also about hand, and what is handed to us.

I see, as in this most beautiful article, deep and deepening truths about our lives. We can read this, as in Parsha, parse this out, at many levels, and still achieve wonder.

This is beautiful, and surely, beauty IS truth.

ani YODeah

this story is about love

we belong to G_d as AV is to of, as in belonging.

we are all of us, part of the story Reply

David Chester Petach Tikva, Israel November 2, 2011

Free-Will Paradox It is difficult to claim that we have free-will. If this is definately so how come that we don't have the opportunity to change it to pre-determination?

Or as is also expressed. Are we sure of not being pre-determined, isn't this certaincy itself pre-set?

What I am saying is that the free-will claim is based on a premise which is illogical, and that in fact we have not the language nor thinking power to be able to understand it! Reply

david goldfarb seattle, wa October 30, 2011

keeping the focus on unity thank you for this perspective. life can be filled with diversity and change is inevitable...good to remember it's all hashem's creation and up to us to seek out and uncover the hidden spark through mitzvah or torah study. baruch hashem. Reply

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