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 The human race is notable for its similarities and differences. All human beings are alike basically but each and every one of us is different. This is a fact of human life yet in spite, the nature of human beings is to focus and concentrate on the differences between us and to ignore the basic similarities.

Recently, I was sitting in the waiting area of a busy airport watching the world rush by. Every physical representation of the human race passed before my eyes. As is normal for all of us, I focused my attention on the differences between the races and body types of the people filling the lanes of the airport.
I immediately realized that there was one overriding similarity that bound all of them together – they were rushing to catch an airplane flight. Their progress towards this goal was single-minded and hurried, albeit strangely orderly and at times even cooperative. The basic purpose for which they were all gathered together at the airport easily erased all of the differences had they been in another environment.
Later, after the flight ended, I was waiting on a long line at passport control, where the atmosphere completely changed. There was jostling, cross looks, words exchanged and snide references about racial and ethnical differences. Competition and stress had now replaced cooperation and understanding – there were even those who loudly complained that the handicapped and elderly in wheel chairs were allowed to proceed to the head of the line – and the inborn selfish nature of humans was on clear display. Now it was the differences that counted most.
In the prayers of the High Holy Days there is the central theme of the basic unity of humanity that emerges from the soaring language of the ancient text. It describes a world where there is a commonality of purpose among all different types of human beings.  The purpose is to act jointly in the service of god and man.
To Jews this is what the goal of the messianic age represents. The Talmud teaches us that the prophet Elijah comes not to emphasize differences but rather to unite the human race and to minimize its frictions. A common positive purpose is the ultimate solution to much of the current ills of our world.
In this, Judaism is distinct from other faiths which portray messianic times of exclusivity and the vindication of their own particular faith and world narrative. Theirs is a messianic age built upon differences and exclusions. It is not the age of unity and service to God envisioned by the great and holy prophets of Israel. In fact, this attitude of exclusivity has been and remains the source of so much strife and religious violence in the world. Just look at the Middle East today and see where this attitude has wreaked so much havoc and destruction.   
The irony in this human trait of differences is that the smaller the difference is the bitterer the dispute. The concept of heresy here reigns supreme. To be part of a group and yet somehow different, even in the smallest of details, is deemed to be worse than not being part of the group originally.
The Bolsheviks persecuted their fellow Marxist Mensheviks unmercifully for not subscribing to Lenin’s interpretation of Marxist theory. The worst crime in the Communist lexicon of treachery was “deviationism.” In Islam, the wars between the different followers of Mohammed have been waged for centuries with ferocity and barbarity.
In the Jewish world the struggles of the different groupings within and outside of Orthodoxy are legendary. In today’s world much of this has been channeled into the competitiveness of differing political parties. Yet, it is a sad fact that putting humpty-dumpty back together in any sort of messianic age will be a Herculean task.
We treasure and value our differences much more than our commonalities. They help us retain self-identity and pride. But at the same time, we often demean others simply because they are different than we are. How to achieve a balance in this apparent contradiction, built into our human nature, is certainly one of the great challenges of social and psychological life. In striving to reach a messianic era we should bear all of this in mind and adjust our attitudes accordingly.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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