Underestimating Unity

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by R. Eliezer Simcha Weisz

Underestimating Unity: The Unraveling of Hamas in the Face of Israeli Solidarity

Introduction: Unprecedented Attacks on Simchas Torah

At dawn on Simchas Torah, Hamas struck with unprecedented ferocity, catching Israel off guard. The security barrier was breached, communities and bases overrun, territory conquered, and devastating casualties inflicted. Yet, ironically, these attacks might spell the demise of Hamas, as its leaders underestimated the strength of Israeli unity. Did they not anticipate this scenario? It seems they miscalculated.

Hamas’ Strategic Miscalculation

Hamas fundamentally misunderstood Israel, failing to comprehend the enduring bonds of brotherhood and unity notwithstanding the vociferous arguments. For months, Israel spiraled into acrimonious political fights over judicial reforms that threatened constitutional order. Reservists suspended annual service in protest alongside senior officials.

Yet, Hamas overlooked the intrinsic fraternity and solidarity of the Jewish people throughout the world that surmounts differences in times of crisis. Hundreds of thousands of reservists answered the call of duty, while Israelis abroad flooded back to contribute. The country and Am Yisrael mobilized behind its soldiers and civilians, offering practical and emotional support, resulting in the swift formation of a unity government.

Lessons from Levi’s Descendants: A Covenant of Empathy

This reflects a deep-rooted pattern – Israel has consistently unified against existential threats throughout its history. Past experience fuels the tenacious cohesion thwarting Hamas’ bid to fracture resolve.

This empathy is apparent in this week’s Parsha, which tells of Levi’s descendants. The Shalo”h HaKadosh, noting an anomaly in the Torah’s genealogy of Moshe Rabbeinu, in that when referring to Levi’s family, the Torah specifically points out to שמות, the names revealing Levi’s prophetic realization.

It is difficult to understand why the word שמות, names, is used in connection with the descendants of Levi and not with the descendants of the other tribes mentioned.

The reason is that the whole tribe of Levi did not share the exile experience properly, because it did not have to perform slave labor. The tribe wished to demonstrate its empathy with the rest of the tribes who were suffering, and they did this by way of the names they gave to their children. For instance, the name גרשון alluded to the fact that they considered themselves as aliens in a land that was not theirs. The name קהת is symbolic of קהות שניהם, that their teeth were on edge in frustration. The name מררי, alluded to the bitterness experienced by their brethren, as we know from (Shemos 1:14).

This is the meaning of “These are the names of the sons of Levi.” This verse teaches us to always share in the troubles of the community even if one has been spared such trouble personally. (Shalo”h Vaera)

אלה ראשי בית אבותם בני ראובן וגו’ ובני שמעון וגו’ ואלה שמות בני לוי (שם טז). קשה למה אמר תיבת שמות אצל לוי יותר ממה שאמר בראובן ושמעון

הענין הוא כי שבט לוי לא היו בגלות, ולוי ידע דבר זה ורצה להשתתף בצרת הצבור, מה עשה, קרא שמות לבניו על שם הגלות. דהיינו, שם גרשון על שם (עי’ שמות כב, כ) כי גרים הם בארץ לא להם. ושם קהת, על שם שיניהם קהות. ושם מררי, על שם (שם א:יד) וימררו את חייהם, זהו שאמר ואלה שמות בני לוי: ומכאן ילמוד האדם להשתתף בצער הציבור אע”פ שאין הצרה מגעת לו [שני לוחות הברית וארא]

The Shalo”h HaKadosh explains that Levi, anticipating his descendants’ freedom amidst their cousins’ enslavement in Egypt, named his sons with connotations of the suffering, embedding empathy and kinship in their identity “Kehas” meaning “darkness,” “Merari” suggesting “bitterness,” and “Gershon” connoting “exile.” He wished to cultivate empathy and kinship in his family so that his descendants would never abandon their persecuted brethren

Pharaoh’s Error in Judgment: Moshe Rabbeinu’s Empathy Prevails

אלה ראשי בית אבותם בני ראובן בכור ישראל וגו’ הנה נראה הטעם שלא שעבדו מצרים בשבט לוי היה כי פרעה ראה בקסם כי משבט לוי יקום המושיע ופרעה חשב מי שאינו בצרה אינו יכול להושיע [תפארת יונתן ע’ נח]

These are the heads of their fathers’ houses, the sons of Reuben, the firstborn of Israel ….. These were the names of the sons of Levi according to their records: Gershon, Kohath and Merari. ….[Shemos 6:14-16]. Behold, it appears that the reason the Tribe of Levi was not enslaved in in Egypt is because Pharaoh saw through divination that from the tribe of Levi would arise the one who would bring salvation. Pharaoh thought that one who is not in distress cannot bring salvation. [Tiferet Yonatan Shemos, p. 58]

Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz [Tiferes Yonasan] elucidates why Pharaoh inexplicably exempted the Tribe of Levi from slavery. Astrologers foresaw the tribe producing the eventual redeemer of Israel. Pharaoh reasoned that only someone who shared the people’s pain could effectively lead them. Indeed, Pharaoh exempted Levites from slavery, certain this would sever their solidarity with the rest of the tribes. But he underestimated Moshe Rabbeinu. As a prince of Egypt, Moshe abandoned and forfeited a life of privilege to share his people’s affliction, risking his life to share in the suffering of his people. His empathy and leadership, his “Nosei Ol Im Chaveiro,” proved pivotal, refuting Pharaoh’s assumption that privilege would hinder redemption.

The Children of Israel inherit an empathy beyond circumstance. Levi imputed this identity into his lineage—a sympathetic DNA holding his descendants in perennial kinship with their oppressed fellow brethren. This empathy holding true  until today.

Likewise, with the example of Moshe Rabbeinu. Hamas incorrectly anticipated that internal conflicts would weaken Israel’s response. However, they underestimated the strong emotional connection and determination that Israelis exhibit when under attack, reflecting the nation’s history. Previous disagreements fade away in the face of immediate conflict and loss. Individual grieving families unite as one people bound by enduring empathy. Thus, strikes against Israel’s scattered parts cannot break the unity of the Jewish nation. So like enemies before, Hamas will crumble against the Jewish nation’s immutable empathy and compassion; the timeless fraternity they fatally misjudged.

Demonstrating “Nosei Ol Im Chaveiro” in Crisis

In these challenging times, let us learn from the example of ֱMoshe Rabbeinu. Like him, standing with and feeling the suffering of our fellow brothers and sisters in distress allows us to ease their burden through our presence, assistance, empathy, and determination, demonstrating true solidarity. Above all, we fulfill the mitzvah of “ Ve-ahavta Le-reiakha Kamokha ” – loving our fellow as ourselves. Am Yisrael Chai, Od Avinu Chai !

About Eliezer Simcha Weisz

Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weisz is a member of The Chief Rabbinate Council of Israel

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