Friday, August 22, 2014

Children of HaShem- Seeing every Jew as family

There is a palpable sense of achdut in Israel, that has not been felt in many decades. While one might be tempted to suggest it is tied into the war, previous wars have not led to this kind of unity. What is the basis of our unity?

בָּנִים אַתֶּם לה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶם לֹא תִתְגֹּדְדוּ וְלֹא תָשִׂימוּ קָרְחָה בֵּין עֵינֵיכֶם לָמֵת 

You are children of HaShem. Do not make any cuts on yourself, and do make a bald spot between your eyes, because of the dead. (Loose translation of Devarim 14:1).

Let's examine this passuk, both in terms of drush and peshat.

On the words “ לֹא תִתְגֹּדְדוּ", Chazal teach "לא תעשו אגודות אגודות " Do not split yourselves into separate groups, or cliques. (One place where this comes into play is when people within the same shul or community, have different practices with putting on tefillin on Chol HaMoed). Rashi explains that the reason for this prohibition is that if we split up our practice of Torah, it will appear, God forbid, as if there are two Torahs. Rambam, on the other hand suggests that the reason for the prohibition is to prevent fighting. What this understanding of the words לֹא תִתְגֹּדְדוּ seems to lack is a connection to the beginning of the pasuk ָנִים אַתֶּם לה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶם. We will see that there is, in fact, a connection.

On the level of peshat, several explanations are given for the connection between the two parts of the passuk.

The Ibn Ezra explains that because we are children of HaShem, we should recognize that even when tragedy occurs, it from the same loving father who always take care of us. Even though death is difficult to accept, particularly when a person was murdered, our reaction should be tempered with the realization that our loving father rules the world, and that nothing happens unless He allows it.

The Ramban connects it to the concept of Olam HaBa. Do not respond to death as if it is the end, Recognize that, as children of God, there is another world, in which true reward will be given to the person who died.

I would suggest that the midrash, and the two explanations of it, do, in fact, tie into the beginning of the passuk.

The fact that we were given one Torah is an indication that we are all connected. Hashem asks us to live by the same rules. It is only as a nation can we observe all 613 mitzvos. As children of HaShem, we should be careful not to let supercial differences of appearance or approach of worship, lead to a sense that we do not share one Torah.

Similarly, a father is always pained where there is fighting and division among his children. He wants them to live together and realize that they are interconnected. We need to recognize that intra-religious fighting is an indication that we do not sufficiently see our fellow Jews as brothers and sisters.

The war started with the unbearable tragedy of the kidnapping and murder of three precious yeshiva boys. Although, we dare not claim to understand why, we follow in the lead of the Fraenkel, Yifrach and Shaar families and accept what happened as a decree from Above. We can derive at least a small amount of comfort knowing that these three precious boys, and those who have died during this war, are being treated as heroes in the world of Truth. Amongst ourselves, our reaction can only be that of unity, as we recognize that we are all truly children of HaShem, and that KOL Yisrael yeish lahem cheilek l'Olam Haba. After the end of the war, which should come soon, please God, let us remember this lesson and show that we do not need tragedy to bring us together as one.


  1. I believe all human beings are children of Hashem. Not a very Passaicdik belief.

    1. One could certainly justify that by seeing that Bnei Yisrael are called HaShem's bechor.

    2. And that means the beginning of the pasuq is making a fundamentally different argument than the next pasuq. "Banim atam Lashem E-lokeikhem -- you are human beings, children of Hashem Your G-d, therefore...." as opposed to the reason given in pasuq 2:
      כִּי עַם קָדוֹשׁ אַתָּה לַה אֱלֹקיךָ וּבְךָ בָּחַר ה לִהְיוֹת לוֹ לְעַם סְגֻלָּה מִכֹּל הָעַמִּים אֲשֶׁר עַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה.

      The opening introduces a universal motivation, and the "ki" introduces a particularist one.

      The problem to your particular question is that it is very hard to tie arguments about the unity of the Torah to "because you are people, children of G-d". The Torah's possession is an exclusively Jewish thing.

      Perhaps this is why there is Avos 4:13, which appears to contradict this train of thought by using our pasuq to say that while people are "betzelem", Jews are "banim":

      הוא היה אומר, חביב אדם שנברא בצלם.
      חבה יתרה נודעת לו שנברא בצלם, שנאמר ...
      חביבין ישראל שנקראו בנים למקום.
      חבה יתרה נודעת להם שנקראו בנים למקום, שנאמר (דברים יד), בנים אתם לה' אלהיכם.
      חביבין ישראל, שנתן להם כלי חמדה.
      חבה יתרה נודעת להם שנתן להם כלי חמדה שבו נברא העולם....

    3. None of the exegetical arguments are of any interest to me. Thanks for responding, however.

    4. What does that mean? I posted support for two conflicting ideas! Are you saying you're equally confused?

    5. No. I'm with you in saying banim has a certain connotation.

    6. See R' Herschel Schachter's recent TorahWeb peshetl: here