Rosh Hashanah is very different from other Jewish holidays. A thread of universalism runs through it, and its prayers differ from those of the rest of the year. Nationalism and the nation’s collective memories are marginal at this time; its main essence is directed outward: “a prayer … for all the nations.” This is the only day when we pray for the world’s well-being. We sing “today the world was conceived,” and we know that “everyone in the world will pass before Him,” without distinction and without discrimination, because everyone is equal before the world’s creator. Like Adam and Eve, who were born free of religion and zealotry.
Over the years, due to the Jewish people’s historical troubles, the holiday’s universal identity became blurred. It was difficult for us, the persecuted, to rise to the occasion and act on behalf of the world that rejected us so violently. Behaving as “a nation that dwells alone” came naturally to us, and we abandoned the universal responsibility of the Jewish people, which was once “a nation of the world” and has now become too much of “a nation of the land.”
The results of this closing of the national soul are very sad. For the first time in millennia, we are not at the forefront of influence on the world. In the past, there was hardly an era in which we did not have an influence. Take Jesus, for example. His teachings and values sprang from the Jewish core of the Second Temple period. Those who sowed the European renaissance included descendants of Jewish Marranos, who brought the wisdom and achievements of ancient Greece, which had been preserved by the moderate and tolerant Muslim philosophers, back home.