Achdut

Jewish unity is critical to the success of Jewish nationhood.  It is also sadly something that presents itself as the biggest challenge to Jewish communities the world over.  True Jewish unity is the successful remedy to both the internal and external struggles of Jews, commonly presented as assimilation and anti-semitism.

The Torah has a formula for Jewish unity, and demands unity of us.  Kol Yisrael aravim zeh la zeh – all Jes are responsible for one another.  However we remain our own worst enemies, and are unable to overcome our own shortcomings when it comes to putting this into action.  The Three Weeks between Shiva Assar B’Tammuz and Tisha B’Av allow us to focus our attention on this cricital survival skill.  It is noted that Bayit Shani, the second Temple, was destroyed by causeless hatred (Sinat Chinam).  It is too often forgotten that Bayit Shlishi, the rededication of the Temple, will be created by causeless love and respect (Ahavat Chinam).

The struggle we have today is not new to our generation.  Yet it is still current to the emancipated state of the Jewish world and its confrontation with modernity.  At a philosophic level, Torah observant Jews have still not figured out whether they should embrace the non-Jewish world, or shelter themselves from the non-Jewish world.  The reality is that we have to do both.  We have to recognise the universal message and purpose of Jewish belief in a global context and make our mission understood.  We also have to build fences around the interpretation and lifestyle of our Torah to protect Judaism from being destroyed.

I subscribe to a religious zionist ethos, which is all about Jewish expression through the embracement of the mundane, integration of Torah with all aspects of living, and interaction with academic and intellectual pursuits that are part of the world around us.  I respect the haradi ethos, which protects itself from having to confront issues of integration by not exposing themselves to it.

It was intriguing to read veteran AJN columnist Yossi Aron, who wrote about a principal level dispute within Orthodox circles that reflects this clash of values.     The article beautifully concludes:

“Rabbi Hirsch saw Judaism as a community that encompassed many different types of people, from all walks of life. He offered an understanding of Judaism that also valued people who did not sit and study all day, but who lived in the world. Not only did Rabbi Hirsch speak to the issues of the day, he also spoke in a manner that people from all walks of life could comprehend.”

Australian Jews are becoming more polarised.  Both from a religious -secular persepctive, and an inter-relgious perspective.  There are clearly limits on what can be compromised before we get to a point that something is no longer by definition “Jewish”.  The way we relate to that and the way in which we communicate points of differences leaves a lot to be desired.    

There are not many observant Jews in Perth, but the few that do exist need to do more to embrace the secular Jewish community.  Similarly, the non-observant Jews need to show greater respect and appreciation for their tradition in order to find satisfaction within their Jewish identity.  There is no better time than this period of the three weeks to resolve greater dedication towards the religious becoming less insular and the non-religiouis becoming more traditional.  Of course, less antagonism from both sides of the religious divide would also assist.  Or is that too much to expect?