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.