Tuesday, June 3, 2014
One Heart- Unity through Torah
So much has been written about Jewish unity. How do we get there? Perhaps if we examine a midrash more deeply, we might gain a few insights.
Thanks, in part, to Rashi, it is one of the most well known midrashim. As Bnei Yisrael get to Har Sinai, the pasuk says וַיִּסְע֣וּ מֵֽרְפִידִ֗ים וַיָּבֹ֨אוּ֙ מִדְבַּ֣ר סִינַ֔י וַֽיַּֽחֲנ֖וּ בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר וַיִּֽחַן־ שָׁ֥ם יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל נֶ֥גֶד הָהָֽר – "And they travelled from Rephidim and they came to the Sinai Desert, and they camped in the desert, and they camped there, facing the mountain". Commenting on the fact that the second time it mentions Bnei Yisrael camping, it uses the term וַיִּֽחַן, which is singular, the midrash explains that this refers to their level of unity, כּאיש אחד בּלב אחד "Like one man, with one heart". Why does the midrash have to say the words "with one heart"? If they were like "one man", is it not obvious that it was like they had "one heart"?
Actually, it is not. In a mishna in Berachos the words בּכל לבבך are understood to mean that you should love God with both of your hearts, the yetzer hatov and the yetzer hara. We have competing drives. We sometimes behave with duplicity. We are pulled in two very different directions. Ordinarily, the best we can hope for is to channel it all into the service of God. Somehow, by Har Sinai, our two hearts became one. How did that happen?
In Jewish thought, God is described as a יושב, one who stays put, and does not change (as an extension, only a king from the house of David may sit in the Beis HaMikdash). Angels are called עומדים, creatures who stand, who have only one leg (we imitate this each time we say the amidah). They do not change, but are, of course, less permanent than God. Man is a הולך one who moves. While we sometimes move in the right direction, often we do not. We are constantly moving, striving, changing. While this movement is necessary, it comes with a cost. We can be at odds with ourselves. Certainly, one who has an internal civil war, can not easily love another person. We often work against each other, seeing success as a zero sum game, where another's success comes at a cost to me. It is during the six days of the week during which we strive, that we often strive against one another. Shabbos gives us a chance to rest, to be at peace. When Bnei Yisrael camped at Har Sinai, they too came to rest. They were no longer going somewhere. They had arrived. They could camp and rest.
By camping around Har Sinai, they had a common focal point (Rav Tzadok explains the idea of tzaddikim in olam haba encircling the shecina as suggesting equal value before God). God and His Torah became the unifying factor for all of them. While each person had all sorts of physical, emotional and personal differences, before God, they were equal. While there were 12 shevatim, composed of millions of people, they became more than one nation. They became one person, with one common heart.
As we again receive the Torah, may we be mekabel it with love, and again join together with one heart. Chag Sameach.