By Michael Hirsch
For those of us living in the twenty-first century, when the fragmentation of the Jewish people—geographically, politically, religiosity-wise, Zionist/anti-Zionist, etc., etc., ad nausea—has sunk to the depths, there is a particularly telling phrase in this week's Parasha. As the people approach Mount Sinai, we are told, "……vayichan sham Yisrael neged hahar," and the people camped there, opposite the mountain (19:2). What is of note is the use of the singular verb form "vayichan," even though we are talking about a multitude of people.
Rashi takes note of this—"As one man, with one heart." For this one moment in time, there was total unity among the Jewish people; the antithesis of the old joke, "Two Jews, three opinions." No Orthodox-Conservative –Reform-Reconstructionist, no Modern/Ultra/Chasidic, no dati/chiloni.
Everybody as one person. Everybody accepting of everyone else. Everyone looking out for each other. "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Each a guarantor for all the others. True unity. I have been privileged to be a member of the Lay Advisory Council of the New York Board of Rabbis for some thirty years. The NYBR epitomizes "as one man, with one heart." These rabbis represent every category of Jew, but they do so with total unity, total camaraderie.
I wish I could proffer some suggestions as to how we as a people can return to the Sinai frame of mind, but I cannot. As I said earlier, a look around the landscape must leave one with a high degree of pessimism. Unfortunately, the only ones who look upon us as all the same are our enemies. Seventy-plus years ago, the Nazis did not send Reform Jews to the gas chambers and spare the Conservatives.
They did not shoot the Orthodox in open, mass graves and spare the Reconstructionists. Today, Islamic terrorists make no distinction between Jews when they slaughter us. To them, A Jew is a Jew is a Jew.
Burn this into your senses!! Wake up!! Our future as a people depends upon it. Do whatever you can to get us back emotionally to the Sinai model. We are all one. Act that way.
Michoel David ben Dov Ber Hirsch
16 Shvat 5775