The Myth of Solidarity

Internal divisions always have been part of Judaism. They never doomed the Jewish people before, and they won't now.

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Inter-group rivalries are an enduring part of thehuman condition. When you add political power, and the certainty on thepart of some that they are standard bearers for what the Author of theUniverse demands of us, the brew is incendiary at best, annihilating atworst.

Judaism has sought to minimize infighting in many ways. The tefillin (theleather straps and boxes worn in prayer) were taken to be symbolic: thereare four compartments on the box affixed to one's head, a single compartmentin the box affixed to one's arm. Tradition taught that the differencesymbolized that although thoughts must be free, action must reflectsolidarity. For much of Jewish history, repression coupled withideology has led to a higher degree of solidarity than might otherwise bethe case.

But this creative, contentious and ancient people has always fought and willalways fight. What we need to regulate is not the fight but the forms ittakes. Internal divisions will not likely destroy Judaism, but leave itweakened, and drive away many who might otherwise be attracted by therichness of its spiritual legacy.

Devotion to our history and sacred texts is a powerful common denominator.If we manage to produce an educated generation of Jews, Jews who understandour culture, the very different assumptions we make about that culture willnot be determinative. What will matter in the end is what the Rabbisreferred to as the many sided mirror of the Torah: even though to each of usit reflects a different face, each is a spark of the same God.

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