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Amid Israel’s war in Gaza, there is talk of drafting yeshivah students into the army to bolster its ranks. On Shavuot, we celebrate the anniversary of receiving the Torah, so I want to write about the role of Torah in war. The Torah is not just a dusty old book …

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Home » Israel, Vayera

The Power of Unity

Submitted by on October 28, 2023 – 9:24 pmNo Comment | 437 views

The power of unity is palpable across the holy land these days. It is an incredible shift from how things were less than a month ago. For many months, Jews were screaming at each other in support and in protest of the government’s planned judicial overhaul. The invectives hurled were painful and extreme.

There was also a terrible divide between religious and secular Jews. Just this past Yom Kippur, Chabad of North Tel Aviv held outdoor services because their facility was too small for the congregation. Tel Aviv had passed a bylaw forbidding gatherings in public areas with separate seating for men and women. Jewish protestors spent their Yom Kippur hurling insults at fellow Jews immersed in traditional prayer.

Then came the heinous massacre on October 7—Simchat Torah, the most joyful day in the Hebrew calendar. It was horrific. It is still horrific. Jews are still in captivity. Yet, the country has come together as one person with one soul—a single nation with a single Father in Heaven. On Simchat Torah, it was difficult to dance or rejoice. Today, the entire country is dancing with joy.

No one has forgotten the grief, the horror, or the pain. We dance because we have transcended our differences and found our oneness. We still disagree. But we don’t look at our brothers as foreigners. We have found each other. We are united. And there is so much power in unity.

Several non-Kosher restaurants in Tel Aviv have koshered their kitchens to ensure that all Jews can eat in their establishments. The city in which Jews cursed Jews on the holiest day of the year because they disagreed on the correct way to pray now wants these very Jews to feel at home in their restaurants. Wow!

A few weeks ago, a secular Jew showed up at an army base in Israel with 300 home-cooked meals for the soldiers. The guard thanked him and summoned the rabbi of the base to ensure the food was kosher. The rabbi came and asked where the food was prepared. The man replied, “In all my life, I have only talked to two rabbis. You are the second one. The first one was the rabbi I called to my home last night to make my kitchen kosher. I told him that I was going to feed the soldiers, and I couldn’t stand the thought that a Jew might not eat from my kitchen!

How did this happen? This man doesn’t believe in Kashrut. He lives in Israel and never talked to a rabbi. Suddenly, he Koshers his kitchen and wants religious Jews to feel at home in his home. Why? Because we are brothers. This is the power of unity. This is why there is dancing and joy amidst grief and anxiety. Everyone knows we are in a dangerous situation, but because of our unity, we feel secure.

Soldiers everywhere are dancing to Jewish tunes of faith and hope. They celebrate Shabbat. They send encouraging messages home. Jews around the world are coalescing to support the soldiers on the front lines and the many families whose breadwinners were called up to the reserves. They are also closing ranks around the families from the north and the south that have been exiled from their homes.

Soldiers are begging for pairs of tzitzit, and Jews around the world can’t make and deliver them fast enough. Soldiers are wrapping teffilin. There is so much trust in G-d and optimism for the future. And why? Because we are united. Such is the power of unity.

Sodom and Gomorra
This week, we will read about the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah that G-d struck with fire and sulfur and then overturned. He lifted the foundation of these cities and turned them on their head, crushing their inhabitants. Most people know about Sodom and Gomorrah, but did you know that two more cities were overturned? They were Admah and Zeboiim. But they were just overturned, not burned. And why?

The answer is found in the names of the kings of these cities. The king is the heart of the nation, and names are reflective of our character. Thus, the name of the king reflects the character of the city.

Bera, which means double evil—to G-d and to people—was the king of Sodom. Birsha, which means double wickedness—twice as wicked as Bera—was the king of Gomorrah. Shineab, which means hater of our Father, was the king of Admah. Shemever was the king of Zeboiim. Shemever means to make wings—to fly to Heaven and lead a rebellion.

The upshot is that Sodom and Gomorrah were evil to G-d and to people; the other two rebelled against G-d but not against each other. Without unity, there is no path forward for society. Such societies must be eradicated with no trace left. Where there is unity, the fabric of humanity has not been destroyed. These two cities were punished for their sins, but they were not eradicated. Such is the power of unity.

The Generic Source
But what is the power of unity? Why is unity so powerful? Our sages tell us that unity is the vessel that holds blessing. We say every day in our prayers, “Bless us, our father, because we are like one.”

Think of a human cell. All cells originate in a single generic cell called a pluripotent cell. This cell is undifferentiated, but it has the potential for every cell to differentiate from it. This cell is neither a nose cell nor a heart cell nor a fingernail cell, but all these cells can differentiate from it.

Now, nose cells have irreconcilable differences with heart cells. Put a nose cell in the heart, and you will have heart failure. The nose cell has no business in the heart. Yet, they all differentiated from the same cell. This is why scientists can theoretically tinker with both cells till they regress to their original state. And what do you know, from that state, the former nose cell can emerge as a heart cell and vice versa.

Despite their differences, these cells don’t fight with each other all day and destroy the body in the process because they “know” their origins. They know that they are inherently one and that their unity transcends their very real differences. Despite their disagreements, they are never disagreeable with each other. They always remember that they are one and that their oneness transcends their differences.

The unity of the universe is the one G-d that created it. We all emerged from G-d’s creative power, though He created us differently from each other. We don’t look alike or think alike. But that is only surface deep. When we drill down to our essence—our point of origin—we discover our oneness. And we each realize that we could just as easily have emerged with the other person’s ideas—the very ideas we can’t stand.

This doesn’t mean that we agree with each other. But it does mean that we remember our unity, our brotherhood. We can’t stand the thought that we might not eat in each other’s kitchens or feel uncomfortable in each other’s homes just because of our surface disagreements.

Unity Equals Blessing
Unity introduces G-d to the equation and brings us back to our point of origin—the quintessential point of existence—when everything was one within G-d. With G-d’s presence so palpable in our hearts and souls, there can only be blessing. With G-d’s presence so palpable within us, there can be only love. With G-d’s presence so palpable within us, our differentiated differences cease to matter.

Whether or not we deserve it, G-d will surely bless us. Because within the generic point of the universe, there is only blessing, only G-d, and only love. When we love each other, G-d treats us with love.[1]

[1] This essay is based on Torah Or, pp. 10a–11a; Likutei Sichos 35, pp. 72–74.

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