I, like all Jews, sincerely hope that the current cease fire between Israel and Hamas will live up to its namesake. And yet, Israel still has enemies very close to its borders, and peace with them is not yet knocking at our door. In the midst of last week’s war, I embarked on an emotionally profound visit to our brothers and sisters down south. The trip was planned, with the thought that they would be in need, while the rest of us should be concerned for them and yet personally find ourselves in a safer situation.
However, while down there, it seemed that it wasn’t an attempt to comfort those in danger, as opposed to ourselves.
While the rockets were flying in to southern Israel daily, and creating a terrible and dangerous lifestyle for the residents of the south for nearly 12 years, this week the rockets were reaching as far as my own home in Gush Etzion. Fatal rocks are thrown at an innocent women driving home, a bus blows up in Tel Aviv, and it seems that there aren’t many locations in the country that are not under attack.
Going back a few years, we can add in the entire northern frontier [including Haifa] that came under attack during the days preceding and proceeding the 2nd Lebanon war. With the events in Syria of the last few weeks, it seems that almost the entire country is a target, or a highly probable potential target. It seems that Israel is at war everywhere.
During this tragic and tense time in Israel, I believe something has changed drastically in the eyes of our enemies that goes against our own Israeli mindset, and that is the notion of subdivisions.
For as long as I can remember, we have subdivided both the population of Israel [i.e.- Dati, Chiloni, Charedi, Chardali and more,] as well as the land of Israel [i.e.- the territories, the green line, the Golan, then Dan region versus Jerusalem, etc.] into different categories.
We think that territories captured after the Six Day war are in a different category than those that were in our hands prior to it. We further believe that there are areas beyond the Green Line that are within a consensus not to give away, even in a peace treaty, versus others. And then, when rockets fly in, many have said that having them land in the small villages along the Gaza border is different than landing in the Tel Aviv and Haifa areas, with the response of the IDF being less or more fierce based on their target.
I am not one that believes that we should take lessons from the degraded enemies of Israel. But if our sages learned the great value of “Kibud Av Vaem” from the wicked Esav [Bereishit Raba 65,] then this past week should teach us one thing; in the eyes of the enemy, Israel is one Israel, and all Jews, regardless of the diameter of their Kippa or their willingness to give land for peace, are their enemies. Rockets are sent almost everywhere [including Tel Aviv and the outskirts of Jerusalem,] both army personal as well as civilians are targeted, and our enemies make no distinctions between them! Whatever way you attempt peace at this time, dare we ever forget that we are one people that should not be subdivided.
I , for one, would feel utterly embarrassed in front of the Almighty, if these degraded forms of human beasts, sending murderous rockets and bus bombs to kill innocent Jews, understand the unity of the Jewish people, while the Jewish people see divisions! If the Talmud states that the evil “Cenaan” [Grandson of Noach,] left a will to his progeny to continue to steal, etc., and yet obligated them as well to “Ahavu ze et ez” (“Love one another”) (Tractate Pesachim 113b) shall we be on any lower level?
If there is any lesson that we Jews should reiterate, it’s the feeling of that we are all one nation, we are all part of our family. Thus, when the Torah commands against taking revenge on a fellow Jew (Vayikra, 19/18) the Talmud (Yerushalmi, Nedarim 9/4) explains this prohibition by simply stating that if your right hand cuts your left, would you take revenge on your right hand by cutting it off?! Indeed, this analogy assumes that the Jewish people are like two hands in one body.
This is no way means uniformity, as we all have various points of view as to the validity of giving land for peace, speaking to the Hamas and more. After all, there are 12 different tribes that make up the Jewish people, and even at the banks of the Sea of Reeds, according to the rabbinic tradition, G-d made 12 different paths to walk through, corresponding these diverse tribes (Mechilta Drabi Yishmael, Beshalach, 4!)
But while we have never, and still do not think alike, as our faces and minds look and think differently (Berachot 58a) we must state once and for all that we are all equal part of the Jewish family. If Jewish law forbids killing another Jew in order for me not to be killed by an enemy, stating that “your blood is not more red than your fellow Jews blood” (Bava-Metzia 62a, Pesachim 25b, Rambam Yesodei HaTorah 5/7) we must restate that we all have a right to live and breathe freely upon Israeli soil, without subdivisions.
Therefore, we should start acting like one family, seeing a fellow-Jew, even if he dresses differently than me, as part of that family. Saying a “Hello” to fellow Jews on the street should not be limited to those that dress like me [Berachot 17b.] Hosting people in my home should not be limited to those that think like me [Pe’a 1/1.] And concern for the welfare of the Jewish people dare not be just for a specific group.
Our daily prayer service, especially the blessings of petition, are in the plural. We pray for ourselves, within the needs of the entire Jewish people as a whole. Thus, when mentioning the name of someone ill that needs mercy from heave n, we add the words “Betoch shar cholei yisrael” (“within the needs of all those ill within Israel) (Mishna Berura 116/3).”
Subdivisions are a practical tool to organize information, not to divide between members of the same family.
About the Author: Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein is Director of training and placement at The Straus-Amiel Institute at Ohr Torah Stone.
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