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August 28, 2015 / 13 Elul, 5775
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Bringing Hashem Back Into Our Midst: A Tisha B’Av Message

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Unity in Diversity

There is a common misconception as to what constitutes unity. Unity does not mean we must totally negate the differences between us. Unity does not mean everyone has to fall into line and only serve Hashem one particular way. On the contrary, we find in the Torah that there were twelve tribes, each with its own unique path in serving Hashem. Each tribe had a different flag that encapsulated its essence, its uniqueness and the singular qualities it brought to its service of Hashem. Similarly, we find in both Vayechi and Zos Haberachah that when Yaakov Avinu and Moshe Rabbeinu blessed the tribes, they blessed each one “according to its individual blessing.”

Furthermore, the Torah teaches us that each tribe had a different color stone implanted in the choshen (breastplate) worn by the kohen gadol, the high priest, when he was engaged in the service. This again showed that difference in approach when it comes to serving Hashem does not necessarily signify lack of unity. All the tribes were unified on the choshen, and all were blessed by Moshe as one, even as their differences were simultaneously acknowledged.

There is, however, one central caveat that cannot be overemphasized. Yes, the tribes were all different – but when they came thrice yearly to the Beis HaMikdash they came together as one. No one decided to go somewhere else because he felt he could better serve Hashem elsewhere. The Beis HaMikdash was the ultimate meeting point – the central address where all Jews could and were obligated to come together to serve Hashem in unity.

There is a crucially important practical message for us in our times that we would be wise to internalize. Yes, there are varied approaches to serving Hashem and each tribe must choose the one that will help it reach its true potential. Nevertheless, there is a time when all Jews, all of Klal Yisrael, must come together in unity. When they came to the Beis HaMikdash, all differences were put aside and together they basked in the pure spirituality of the Shechinah.

In our time, too, it is no secret that there are many opinions among our various communities on what constitutes the best approach to service of Hashem. Nevertheless, it behooves us at times to put everything aside, all the arguments regarding what is best, and focus purely on Torah. For now that we don’t have the Beis HaMikdash, “We have nothing left but this Torah.” Torah is the ultimate manifestation of spirituality in our time and thus there must be a time that all the tribes in Klal Yisrael declare its complete dedication to Torah and to learning Torah in unity.

This is what the worldwide Torah movement Dirshu has attempted to accomplish with structured learning programs and Torah conventions that encompass the entire Torah community. This was the essence of the three yearly pilgrimages. It was the time when all differences, even legitimate ones, were put aside and the Jewish people focused solely on spirituality. This was and is the ultimate achdus and the ultimate tikkun for the churban.

‘The Shechinah Rests Only Upon an Assembly’

In light of the above, we can understand why the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash was a most fitting punishment for the terrible sin of sinas chinam, which by its very nature represents division among people and is the polar opposite of unity.

Sinas chinam,” notes Rabbeinu Bacheye, “is division among hearts, when people have different thoughts and do not agree to one opinion, when each of them has his own ideas and feels that his fellow is no better than he, when none of them recognizes the value of someone greater than he, but rather they all want to be at the top. As a result, their minds and their hearts are divided.”

This fragmentation of the Jewish people is diametrically opposed to the essence of the Beis HaMikdash, which was founded on the idea that “the Shechinah rests only upon an assembly.” Maharal sums this up concisely: “The Beis HaMikdash was destroyed because of sinas chinam, for their hearts were divided and they were divided, and they were no longer worthy of the Mikdash, which was the unity of Klal Yisrael.”

About the Author: Rav Dovid Hofstedter is the founder and nasi of Dirshu and mechaber of the Dorash Dovid sefarim on the Torah and Moadim.


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