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לימוד תורה

וְהָי֥וּ לַאֲחָדִ֖ים 'joined together'- religious, traditional, secular and ultra-orthodox

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald – The Parasha in our everyday life - Yitro - Shabbat Mevarchim – 5781

Pictures of gatherings at funerals, demonstrations and parties stirred the spirits this week. And rightly so. In the face of growing numbers of deceased, patients seriously ill and on respirators, we would expect the obvious from everyone, religious, traditional, secular, and ultra-orthodox, to show responsibility and mutual support as 'one nation' in times of emergency. We would expect everyone to leave behind the controversies because of the gravity of the situation. And we should all be united: 'as one man with one mind' כְּאִישׁ אֶחָד בְּלֵב אֶחָד.

Let us be 'united' without requiring us to be 'uniform'. Let us be that man who cares for the peace of his brother even if he is different. Even if he is required to change his conduct. And if he is required to prove him wrong, he does so ‘without presumption’, in a proportionate manner, sticking to the facts and not as a way of incitement. Not offending and using fake news. Let us acknowledge the objective difficulty created by the damage of the virus and not be tempted to find us a 'scapegoat' to lay all the blame for the severe crisis on someone specific. And let none of us 'catch' a 'ride' on the crisis to close old accounts with our brothers, being them ideological, political, or religious.

In the Parasha we will read about the Ma'amad Har Sinai (Standing at Sinai):

וַיִּסְע֣וּ מֵרְפִידִ֗ים וַיָּבֹ֙אוּ֙ מִדְבַּ֣ר סִינַ֔י וַֽיַּחֲנ֖וּ בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר וַיִּֽחַן־שָׁ֥ם יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל נֶ֥גֶד הָהָֽר׃

"Having journeyed from Rephidim, they entered the wilderness of Sinai and encamped in the wilderness. Israel encamped there in front of the mountain" (Shmot 19:2)

Israel encamped there – As it is written:

זש"ה דְּרָכֶ֥יהָ דַרְכֵי־נֹ֑עַם וְֽכָל־נְתִ֖יבוֹתֶ֣יהָ שָׁלֽוֹם (משלי ג יז). ביקש הקב"ה ליתן תורה לישראל בשעה שיצאו ישראל ממצרים, והיו חולקין זה על זה והיו אומרים בכל שעה נתנה ראש ונשובה מצרימה (במדבר יד ד), מה כתיב ויסעו מסכות ויחנו באיתם (שמות יג כ), שהיו נוסעים במריבה וחונים במריבה, כשבאו לרפידים הושוו כולם ונעשו אגודה אחת, ומנין שנעשו כולם אגודה אחת, שנאמר ויחן שם ישראל נגד ההר (שם יט ב), ויחנו אין כתיב כאן, אלא ויחן, אמר הקב"ה התורה כולה לשום, ולמי אתננה לאומה שאוהבת שלום, הוי וכל נתיבותיה שלום.

"This text is related (to Mishlei 3:17): " <Wisdom's> ways are pleasant ways, And all her paths, peaceful". The Holy One wanted to give Torah to Israel at the time that Israel came forth from Egypt, but they were disagreeing with each other and were always saying (in Bamidbar 14:4): Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt. What is written (in Shmot 13:20)? They journeyed from Succoth and encamped at Etham, because they were journeying in dissension and camping in dissension. When they came to Rephidim, they all became harmonious and formed a single group. And where is it shown that they all formed a single group? Where it is stated (in Shmot 19:2): And Israel encamped there before the mountain. The plural form of "encamped" is not written here but "encamped" in the singular. The Holy One said: All of the Torah is peace. So, to whom shall I give it? To a people that loves peace." (Midrash Tanchuma Buber Yitro 9).

In all the journeys and stops in the desert so far, "they were disagreeing with each other". The hopefuls who desperately wanted to continue the journey to the Land of Israel with the impatient people who wanted to return to Egypt. And would blame each other for the difficult situation of the life in the desert. Only when they recognized the magnitude, and regained time of unity, and became one 'single group' did a one-time historical window of opportunity open - which made it possible to receive a gift - the Torah.

And hence for generations:

אַתֶּם נִצָּבִים הַיּוֹם, מָה הַיּוֹם מֵאִיר פְּעָמִים וּמַאֲפִיל פְּעָמִים, אַף אַתֶּם כְּשֶׁאֲפֵלָה לָכֶם, עָתִיד לְהָאִיר לָכֶם אוֹר עוֹלָם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וְהָיָה לְךָ ה' לְאוֹר עוֹלָם (ישעיה ס, יט). אֵימָתַי, בִּזְמַן שֶׁתִּהְיוּ כֻּלְּכֶם אֲגֻדָּה אַחַת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: חַיִּים כֻּלְּכֶם הַיּוֹם (דברים ד, ד). בְּנֹהַג שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם, אִם נוֹטֵל אָדָם אֲגֻדָּה שֶׁל קָנִים, שֶׁמָּא יָכֹל לְשָׁבְרָם בְּבַת אַחַת. וְאִלּוּ נוֹטֵל אַחַת אַחַת, אֲפִלּוּ תִּינוֹק מְשַׁבְּרָן. וְכֵן אַתְּ מוֹצֵא שֶׁאֵין יִשְׂרָאֵל נִגְאֲלִין עַד שֶׁיִּהְיוּ כֻּלָּן אֲגֻדָּה אַחַת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: בַּיָּמִים הָהֵמָּה וּבָעֵת הַהִיא נְאֻם ה' יָבֹאוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וּבְנֵי יְהוּדָה יַחְדָּו וְגוֹ' (ירמיה נ, ד). כְּשֶׁהֵן אֲגוּדִים, מְקַבְּלִין פְּנֵי שְׁכִינָה.

אַתֶּ֨ם נִצָּבִ֤ים הַיּוֹם֙ “You are standing today”: Just as today (literally: the day) sometimes darkens and sometimes lightens, so it is with you. Although you have darkness, the Holy One, blessed be He, is going to shine on you with light eternal, as stated (in Ishayahu 60:19), “for Hashem shall be your everlasting light.” When? When you all become one group, as stated (in Devarim 4:4), “are all alive today.” According to universal custom, if one takes a group of reeds, will he be able to break them at one stroke! But if he takes them one by one, even an infant can break them. So also you find that Israel was not redeemed until they became one group, as stated (in Yirmiyahu 50:4), “’In those days and at that time,’ says Hashem,  'the children of Israel, they and the children of Judah, shall come together.’” When they are united, they shall welcome the face of the Divine Presence." (Midrash Tanchuma Nitzavim 1)

If we seek to illuminate our darkness, we must seek unity.

It is no coincidence that the prophecy of the resurrection of the 'Dry Bones' is followed by the prophecy of Unity:

וְאַתָּ֣ה בֶן־אָדָ֗ם קַח־לְךָ֙ עֵ֣ץ אֶחָ֔ד וּכְתֹ֤ב עָלָיו֙ לִֽיהוּדָ֔ה וְלִבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל חברו [חֲבֵרָ֑יו] וּלְקַח֙ עֵ֣ץ אֶחָ֔ד וּכְת֣וֹב עָלָ֗יו לְיוֹסֵף֙ עֵ֣ץ אֶפְרַ֔יִם וְכָל־בֵּ֥ית יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל חֲבֵרָֽיו׃ וְקָרַ֨ב אֹתָ֜ם אֶחָ֧ד אֶל־אֶחָ֛ד לְךָ֖ לְעֵ֣ץ אֶחָ֑ד וְהָי֥וּ לַאֲחָדִ֖ים בְּיָדֶֽךָ׃ וְכַֽאֲשֶׁר֙ יֹאמְר֣וּ אֵלֶ֔יךָ בְּנֵ֥י עַמְּךָ֖ לֵאמֹ֑ר הֲלֽוֹא־תַגִּ֥יד לָ֖נוּ מָה־אֵ֥לֶּה לָּֽךְ׃ דַּבֵּ֣ר אֲלֵהֶ֗ם כֹּֽה־אָמַר֮ ה' הִנֵּה֩ אֲנִ֨י לֹקֵ֜חַ אֶת־עֵ֤ץ יוֹסֵף֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּיַד־אֶפְרַ֔יִם וְשִׁבְטֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל חברו [חֲבֵרָ֑יו] וְנָתַתִּי֩ אוֹתָ֨ם עָלָ֜יו אֶת־עֵ֣ץ יְהוּדָ֗ה וַֽעֲשִׂיתִם֙ לְעֵ֣ץ אֶחָ֔ד וְהָי֥וּ אֶחָ֖ד בְּיָדִֽי׃ וְהָי֨וּ הָעֵצִ֜ים אֲ‍ֽשֶׁר־תִּכְתֹּ֧ב עֲלֵיהֶ֛ם בְּיָדְךָ֖ לְעֵינֵיהֶֽם׃ וְדַבֵּ֣ר אֲלֵיהֶ֗ם כֹּֽה־אָמַר֮ ה' הִנֵּ֨ה אֲנִ֤י לֹקֵ֙חַ֙ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מִבֵּ֥ין הַגּוֹיִ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֣ר הָֽלְכוּ־שָׁ֑ם וְקִבַּצְתִּ֤י אֹתָם֙ מִסָּבִ֔יב וְהֵבֵאתִ֥י אוֹתָ֖ם אֶל־אַדְמָתָֽם׃ וְעָשִׂ֣יתִי אֹ֠תָם לְג֨וֹי אֶחָ֤ד בָּאָ֙רֶץ֙ בְּהָרֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וּמֶ֧לֶךְ אֶחָ֛ד יִֽהְיֶ֥ה לְכֻלָּ֖ם לְמֶ֑לֶךְ וְלֹ֤א יהיה־[יִֽהְיוּ־] עוֹד֙ לִשְׁנֵ֣י גוֹיִ֔ם וְלֹ֨א יֵחָ֥צוּ ע֛וֹד לִשְׁתֵּ֥י מַמְלָכ֖וֹת עֽוֹד׃

"And you, O mortal, take a stick and write on it, “Of Judah and the Israelites associated with him”; and take another stick and write on it, “Of Joseph—the stick of Ephraim—and all the House of Israel associated with him.” Bring them close to each other, so that they become one stick, joined together in your hand. And when any of your people ask you, “Won’t you tell us what these actions of yours mean?” answer them, “Thus said Hashem: I am going to take the stick of Joseph—which is in the hand of Ephraim—and of the tribes of Israel associated with him, and I will place the stick of Judah upon it and make them into one stick; they shall be joined in My hand.”

You shall hold up before their eyes the sticks which you have inscribed,

and you shall declare to them: Thus, said Hashem: I am going to take the Israelite people from among the nations they have gone to, and gather them from every quarter, and bring them to their own land. I will make them a single nation in the land, on the hills of Israel, and one king shall be king of them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms. (Yehezkel 37:16-22)

וְהָי֥וּ לַאֲחָדִ֖ים" joined together". Against all harshness and insults, the crowds of all audiences, bearing in mind that we are destined to live as brothers.

And on Shabbat Mevarchim* for the month of Purim – we will call out to our fellow Jews:

לֵךְ֩ כְּנ֨וֹס אֶת־כָּל־הַיְּהוּדִ֜ים – "Go, assemble all the Jews"!

*Sabbath Mevarchim -The Shabbat before the start of a Jewish month (Rosh Chodesh) is known as Shabbat Mevarchim, “the Shabbat when we bless.”

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