By Yonatan Gordon
There is a Chassidic adage that whereas God transforms the spiritual into the physical, the people of Israel transform the physical into the spiritual.
There are those that think that peace can be made “physical” by signing on the dotted line. But peace is a gift from above, which ultimately manifests in the gift of the coming of Mashiach. It is not something that can be made physical in a peace accord, especially when concessions against the Torah are expected.
Pertaining to the loftiness of peace, Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh said the following shortly after President Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo:
All peoples on earth have a vision and dream of peace. The Torah says that peace is the greatest objective of our life here, of our mission, that God has sent us here to bring love and understanding and peace between all peoples. But in order to achieve peace, we need to understand what peace really means and how we can approach it and realize and fulfill it…
In order to better appreciate and relate to the Chassidic adage at the beginning some more, I thought to tell another story.
A few months back, I noticed an avodah zarah image printed on the inner flap of a package of crackers. As there was no other printing done near it, it was obvious that it was some clandestine approach of the owner to promote their wayward beliefs. I sent a harsh letter saying that the image should be removed immediately, and if it were up to me, the kosher certification should be removed unless she proceeded to do so.
Fully acknowledging that her intention indeed was to “slip this image in,” she wrote back:
Thank you for taking the time to write to us. I am of course glad to hear that you have been enjoying our products and sorry to hear that you find the image on our package offensive. For us, the … symbol … is a representation of love, mercy and compassion, not an idol to be worshiped. I believe that the kosher symbol on our box is a representation as well–of what and how our food is made…
And my response back:
When an object is considered a representation of universal concepts, there are two options. For instance, when “happiness” is used in marketing for Coca-Cola products, or the term “purity” is used on Poland Spring bottles, no one actually thinks that these concepts are contained within the container. The marketing and branding is symbolic, it serves to remind people or these universal ideals that we can all relate to. The problem occurs when a product becomes an end in-and-of-itself. When people do mistakenly think that this product contains these concepts. In the fullest sense, this is exactly what it means to make an idol … something completely forbidden according to Jewish faith.
Whereas [a kosher] symbol simply relates people back to an organization called [name of kosher agency], the notion of kosher certification, their website, etc… the depiction of that image does nothing but foster reliance on that image.
Just as one doesn’t need a Coke to be happy, or a Poland Spring bottle to be pure, “love, mercy and compassion” do not reside within this idol … the intention of this idol is to connote otherwise. People do mistakenly think that “love, mercy and compassion” would be more difficulty attained without making reference to this image.
That is why the image should be removed.
Thinking into this event again, it seemed her attempt was not only to promote this image, but to relate these three spiritual concepts to both the image and the product she was selling. But the truth is, both attempts are not correct. The image is nothingness, and her crackers are just crackers, and with the proper ingredients, they are easily made by anyone.
I bring this story because both these stories tell a similar tale. By means of political maneuverings, the U.S. is hoping to come up with the right packaging to contain “peace.” But their ingredients are just some papers, pens, expensive suits and shoes. If you strip the crackers from the box, they appear once again as the crackers they are. So too, these peace accords are an attempt at developing a fancy package to contain this spiritual, universal concept of “peace.” But once the packaging is tossed aside, all the “ingredients” add up to is some additional income for the fancy pen and deluxe suit makers of the world.
From our sincere efforts and heartfelt prayers, true peace will come from God to the Jewish people and to the nations of the world. But while we need to work to be fitting recipients for this gift and blessing from above, even if we do not own an Armani suit, this is also okay.