Saturday, Jul 20, 2024

One Nation Indivisible

Trouble usually brings families and even nations together. That has certainly been the case for Klal Yisroel. If it was Paroh or Hitler, Haman or Osama bin Laden, we have always joined hands to daven, fight them and presented a unified front to the latest enemy. Yet, sometimes the pain and loss are so great that our anguish erupts into friction and discord.

The latest wave of terrorism and murder in Eretz Yisroel has unfortunately brought about an occasional rift in our areivus and unconditional ahavas Yisroel. Recriminations, blame and accusations that were clearly formulated by the yeitzer hara himself have occasionally wreaked havoc on our inherent brotherhood. So perhaps this is an opportune time to review how crucial achdus — total unity — is to our people, especially when we are under attack.

In a pithy comment, the Boyaner Rebbe zt”l (Tiferes Yisroel, Teves 5755) noted that when Yehoshua triumphed against Amaleik, the Torah reports that he won lefi chorev, by sword. He points out that our actual weaponry is unimportant. It was the fact that we were each a chover (which has the same Hebrew letters as those of cherev, sword) to each other that brought us victory. So has it been in all our wars and struggles.

When we faced Haman and his evil sons, Esther requested that Mordechai first unify all the Jews (leich kenos es kol haYehudim) and one of the Purim mitzvos promulgated for eternity was mishloach manos, which extends ahavas Yisroel (Avir Yosef, page 404). One commentary on the Rambam’s Igeres Teiman (Machshavah Umussar, page 20) even understands the Rambam to mean that in our ultimate war with Yishmoel, we will need absolute unity in Klal Yisroel. At a time when we seem inclined to hurt each other or at least engage in mutual recrimination, it seems propitious to review a famous metaphor in the Yerushalmi (Nedorim 9:2): “If a person were cutting food with a knife and sliced his left hand with his right, would it occur to him for a moment to cut his right hand in retaliation?”

Furthermore, the Menoras Hamaor (Ner 2, No. 63), following the statement of Chazal (Yoma 9b) that baseless hatred destroyed the second Bais Hamikdosh, finds the word aivah, hatred, spelled out in the opening words of Eicha, the Book of Lamentations (Eichah yashvah vadad ha’ir).

One Rosh Hashanah, when the Yom Tov fell on Shabbos, the Berditchever Rebbe seemed elated. When asked about his good cheer, he explained that since it was Shabbos, no bad decisions could be written about any Jew. When someone made the obvious inquiry, “But then nothing good can be written either,” the great defender of Klal Yisroel responded with a smile, “That is pikuach nefesh — dangerous to life — and overrides the sanctity of Shabbos.”

The rebbes of Lizhensk, Apt, Amshinov and many others were known to constantly strive to defend every Jew before Hashem, always seeking to put them in the best possible light.

Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky zt”l (Emes L’Yaakov, Parshas Bamidbar) asks a powerful question. Why was the parshah of the degalim — the various flags and travel sequence — of Klal Yisroel not taught until the second year after the Torah was given? Surely, they were already traveling through the desert and needed their designated orientation around the Mishkan. Why wait?

Rav Yaakov explains that since the degalim represented the unique individual purpose and singular role of each shevet, there was a danger of discord being created amongst Klal Yisroel. Only after the unifying building of the Mishkan was Klal Yisroel ready to have twelve different characters and goals imprinted upon the nation. Despite the sublime power of the degalim, something even the angels desired, the danger of dissention overpowered the premature implementation of the degalim.

Based upon Rav Yaakov’s wisdom, this might be the time to remind our fellow Jews of the wide range of contributions that individuals and groups can make to Klal Yisroel. We have always had Zevuluns and Yissochors, soldiers on the front lines and those spiritually upholding the nation behind the scenes. It was Dovid Hamelech himself who instituted that both share equally in the spoils and booty of all wars. There is no need to denigrate anyone, as long as they are following the Torah and being respectful of others. It has been rightfully pointed out (see Ohel Moshe, Bamidbar, page 157) that the angels, amongst whom there is no hatred, are each given a unique task and purpose. Yet, when it comes to declaring kedushah — the holiness of Hashem — they ask permission of each other and, together as one (ke’echad onim v’omrim), loudly and in perfect unity sanctify His name.

This caring and concern for every Jew, no matter how lowly or even evil, was dramatically taught by Rav Avrohom Grodzensky zt”l, the last mashgiach of Slabodka, who was noticeably agitated one Shabbos and not in his usual serene state of mind. When asked about it, he responded that a certain anti-religious Jew had just passed away before Shabbos. “I am thinking of how Smolenski is suffering before the Heavenly tribunal and I cannot help but be agitated,” he said. Now, this Maskil had caused great harm to religious Jewry, to Slabodka in general, and, some relate, to the mashgiach in particular, but since he was still a Jew, the mashgiach profoundly empathized with him in his pain (Alei Shur, volume 2). We should surely try to do no less in our dealings and even thoughts about our not-yet-religious brethren.

Perhaps if we remembered the lesson of the machatzis hashekel, the half coin everyone contributed to the Bais Hamkdosh, we would always think of our fellow Jew. The Alshich Hakadosh (Parshas Ki Sisa) quotes his Tzefas neighbor, Rav Shlomo Alkabetz, that we are all just half of a whole when it comes to our place in Klal Yisroel. Just as the Mishkan was the great unifier of Klal Yisroel, as we learned from Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky earlier, so was the Mishkan built and funded by the machtzis hashekel, which was our constant reminder to look beyond ourselves and not be arrogant or self-absorbed with vanity or disdain for others.

Sometimes, a strategic mistake can lead us to a path that we should have been on to begin with. We all know in our hearts that every Jew is hated by our enemies and in danger from them. It should be irrelevant to all of us which one is stabbed at any given moment, since we are all brothers and sisters. We should feel their pain, no less than Rav Grodzensky cried over Smolenski. As the water reflects a face, so will our as-yet-unaffiliated brothers feel our love. This is a time, upon the yahrtzeit of the kedoshei Har Nof, to remember that these holy neshamos represented every one of us. One of their common denominators was the love each of them felt and expressed for every single Jew. Let us try to reflect that eternal lesson in every aspect of our lives. For them and for us.




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