A truly unprecedented pre-Shavuos achdus event is taking place this Sunday featuring over 90 speakers representing all segments of the English-speaking Torah world – yeshivish, Modern Orthodox, chassidish, and dati-leumi.
Eight current and former chief rabbis are scheduled to speak (including Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Rav Shlomo Amar, and Rabbi Berel Lazar) as are senior roshei yeshiva and rabbanim like Rav Yisroel Reisman, Rav Herschel Schachter, Rav Reuven Feinstein, Rav Asher Weiss, Rav Avigdor Nevenzahl, Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu, and Rav Zev Leff.
Dozens of major speakers in the Jewish world are also on the program, including Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller, Sivan Rahav-Meir, Rabbi YY Jacobson, Rabbi YY Rubinstein, Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, Rabbi Eytan Feiner, Rabbi Zechaya Wallerstein, Rabbi Eli Mansour, Rabbi Meir Goldwicht, Rabbi Hanoch Teller, and Charlie Harary.
Called “Vayicha Sham Yisrael Neged Hahar – K’Ish Echad B’Lev Echad,” the event is dedicated to the memory of the Noviminsker Rebbe and will take place on Sunday over the course of five hours starting at 10:00 a.m. (EST) on YouTube and Zoom.
“Over 95 percent of the people asked [to speak] said yes,” Rabbi Reuven Taragin, dean of Overseas Students at Yeshivat HaKotel and the event’s organizer, told The Jewish Press. “People very much rallied around the idea.”
Asked if he thinks we will be seeing more achdus events in the future or if this is just a one-time anomaly due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rabbi Taragin said, “I think it would be beautiful and very important to continue. I hope the spirit of Klal Yisrael makes it possible.”
Rabbi Taragin said “thousands of hours have been invested by close to 100 people” on this event.
Considering how unusual this event is, The Jewish Press wrote to several of the speakers asking them if they could address the following questions: “What do you think of the event? Did you hesitate before agreeing to speak on a program featuring rabbis who represent a hashkafa that you may believe to be incorrect? Does this achdus event portend anything for the future or is it a one-time anomaly?”
Here is how they responded:
I was very excited to be invited to join the “Vayichan Sham Yisrael Neged Hahar” event. I didn’t hesitate for a nano-second in accepting. I think this is precisely what Klal Yisrael needs and I hope there will be many more.
We never were meant to be one “cookie cutter” people. The Torah was given at Har Sinai to all the different tribes. Within the Torah and halacha, there is lots of room for many different approaches and hashkafos.
I recall sitting and learning in Yeshivat HaKotel with one of my university students who had gone to learn there. He did so with my enthusiastic support. It’s the same support I feel about joining with all these different Orthodox rabbis with all their different approaches. It was that approach that got us the Torah in the first place.
– Rabbi YY Rubinstein
Who could resist being involved in such a lofty project? Rav Aharon Kotler, zt”l (based on a Mechilta), said that from the unity displayed before receiving the Torah and the power that was invested in the people because of their unity, we learn how vital it is to always unite on behalf of the spiritual and material needs of our brethren.
There is no one involved in this program whose hashkafa I believe to be incorrect. Everyone is a noted Torah educator!
Halevai this program will be a pace-setter for the future, please G-d, but Rabbi Reuven Taragin has already broken lots of ground in this regard. And wherever he has, it has proven fertile for future planting.
– Rabbi Hanoch Teller
I was asked to participate in the Vayichan Program that is being sponsored by the World Mizrachi. Although I do not formally identify with that organization nor do I agree with all of its hashkofos, it is an organization of shomrei Torah and mitzvos.
If it is dong something commendable that unites people from various hashkafos and no one is required to adopt any specific hashkafa or instructed what they can or cannot say – and all of them are shomrei Torah u’mitzvos – I don’t think there is any reason for me not to be involved in spreading Torah.
It is further commendable that it is dedicating this program to the memory of the Novominsker Rebbe, zt”l, who was the head of Agudas Yisroel, a further indication that this event transcends political and hashkafic lines.
I would hope that in the future similar united efforts will be promoted to advance achdus by other organizations. Achdus does not mean everyone agreeing with everything everyone holds, but rather that the underlying commitment to Torah, mitzvos, and a legitimate mesorah be the foundation that unites us, though we may vehemently disagree on various issues.
Achdus may not apply to politics or united stands on various issues, or how we observe halacha and hashkafa, but when it comes to disseminating Torah to the masses, I want to be included and am proud to be included, and I commend Mizrachi for organizing this.
– Rabbi Zev Leff
I think this is a fabulous event demonstrating achdus. That is precisely what we need, especially now in these very difficult times.
We can be one people with different opinions. The true meaning of love is that we can respectfully disagree but still love each other. Our difference of opinions is l’shem shamayim.
I’m grateful to participate in this extraordinary opportunity.
– Rabbi David Aaron
I was very happy to be asked to particpate in this event. I think we do a lot in Israel to promote unity between Orthodox Jews and secular Jews, but don’t do enough to promote unity among religious Jews themselves.
I’m a baal teshuvah and I’m always asked precisely which sector I belong to. I remember that even before I started keeping Torah and mitzvot – when I wasn’t even fully observing Shabbat yet – people were already asking me this question…
We stood under Mt. Sinai together and said, “We will do and we will hear,” and received the Torah without being divided into parties and sectors. These divisions are a human invention that we added later.
This kind a conference brings us back, in a sense, to Mt. Sinai – with unity around the Torah, with all the tribes and camps, from all over the world. In my opinion, such unity can draw people to Mt. Sinai who have not yet arrived there.
– Sivan Rahav Meir
I was heartened when Yeshivat HaKotel contacted me about participating in their upcoming event. I think it’s a beautiful show of achdus and a wonderful forum for so many people from so many different vantage points to come together to learn and share.
What I find saddening is the shallowness of our generation. Someone once said that our generation has the depth of a teaspoon. The most minor differences of clothing, or type of yarmulke, or nuance in how one davens, is considered so great that it almost becomes a question: “How could we share the same podium?” or “How could we join together in the same program?”
The simple reality is that we share 98 percent of the same [core principles]. We stood at the same Har Sinai, we follow the same Shulchan Aruch, and it’s a beautiful event that we can all participate in.
– Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier