Vort from the Rav: Balak

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Bamidbar 23:9

הֶן עָם לְבָדָד יִשְׁכֹּן וּבַגּוֹיִם לֹא יִתְחַשָּׁב

it is a nation that will dwell alone, and will not be reckoned among the nations.

Unity in Israel is a basic principle in Judaism. We have formulated this principle in one sentence: You are one, Your name is one, and who is like Your people Israel, a unique nation on earth? (Minchah of Shabbos).

The principle of unity expresses itself in two ways. First, the unity of Jews as members of a spiritual community, as a congregation which was established through the conclusion of the covenant at Mount Sinai: And you shall be unto me a kingdom of princes and a holy nation (Ex. 19:6). The unity of the Jewish people as a community is based upon the uniqueness of the Jewish way of life—a Torah existence. What ties the Yemenite water carrier in the streets of Tel Aviv to the Jews of Boston? A uniform Orach Chaim, the Shema Yisrael, Shabbos, Kol Nidrei night, the Seder night, kashrus, tefillin, the characteristic trait of kindness, the hope and yearning for redemption. The Hebrew word edah, congregation, is the same as ed, witness, and edus, testimony; thus a spiritual-religious entity is tied through a transcendental-ethical consciousness to a vast memory of a people about a divine law with a common past and a collective future. A collective testimony united us all into a Jewish community. The Jew who erases from his memory this great testimony, destroying the unique collective tradition, breaks the tie which joins him with the Jewish community as part of a congregation, as part of a spiritual Torah entity.

Unity also manifests itself in our unique political-historical lot as a nation. We are unique not only in our way of life, but also in our historical transmigrations and in our paradoxical fate. Our history would not fit into a different historical framework, and our fate is incomprehensible. The enigma of our existence is primarily revealed through our loneliness and our affliction in all times, the current era included. It is a nation that will dwell alone, and will not be reckoned among the nations. The State of Israel did not avoid this unique fate; quite the contrary, it has given expression to it in a more concrete fashion. No Jew can renounce his part of the unity, which emerges from the fate of loneliness of the Jewish people as a nation. This political-historical unity is based upon the conclusion of the covenant in Egypt, which occurred even prior to the giving of the Torah at Sinai: And I shall take you to Me as a people, and I will be a God to you (Ex. 6:7). This covenant forced upon us all one uniform historical fate. The Hebrew word am, nation, is identical to the Hebrew word im, with. Our fate of unity manifests itself through a historical indispensable union.

When we are faced with a problem for Jews and Jewish interests regarding the defense of Jewish rights in the non-Jewish world, then all groups and movements must be united. In this area, there may not be any division, because any friction in the Jewish camp may be disastrous for the entire people. In this realm, we must consider the ideal of unity as a political-historical nation, which includes everyone from Mendes-France to the “old-fashioned” Jew of Meah She’arim—without exception. In the crematoria, the ashes of the chasidim and pious Jews were put together with the ashes of the radicals and the atheists. And we all must fight the enemy, who does not differentiate between those who believe in God and those who reject Him.

With regard to our problems within [the Jewish community], however—our spiritual-religious interests such as Jewish education, synagogues, councils of rabbis—whereby unity is expressed through spiritual-ideological collectivism as a Torah community, it is my opinion that Orthodoxy cannot and should not unite with such groups which deny the fundamentals of our Weltanschauung. (Community, Covenant and Commitment, pp. 143-144)

About Arnold Lustiger

Dr. Arnold Lustiger is a research scientist and has edited multiple volumes of the Rav's Torah, including the recently published Chumash Mesoras HaRav.

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