Friday, March 10, 2017

One Nation, Divided

By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

At the end of this week’s Torah portion the incense is mentioned, which symbolizes the unity of the nation of Yisrael. “Every fast day which does not include the sinners of Yisrael is not a valid fast day, as is seen from the fact that even though ‘chelbona’ has a bad smell the Torah includes it as one of the ingredients of the incense” [Keritot 6b]. Unity in Yisrael is one of the elements of the time of Purim. And it is also significant for modern times.

In a sermon that he evidently gave at a Purim banquet, Rav Kook discussed Haman’s declaration and its implication for today. Haman said to the King: “there is one nation scattered and dispersed among the nations” [Esther 3:8]. Esther, on the other hand, raises the principle of unity: “Go and gather all the Jews” [4:16]. According to Rav Kook, this declaration “must bring us back to life.”

However, the great question is: “Can we now really say, ‘Go and gather all the Jews?’ How can we put them all and all their different parties under a single roof? ... We clearly see that scattering and dispersion devour us from all sides... We can see with our own eyes the terrible internal strife, how Jews rise up against each other, how brothers are transformed into wolves and snakes fighting each other. How can we say, ‘Go and gather all the Jews?’”

“It is indeed one nation, even though it is separated into different parts,” Rav Kook continues, “Do not wonder about the fact that two opposites appear in one body. There are amazing things in the world, and this nation – whose entire existence is entwined in wondrous phenomena, also demonstrates this remarkable feat. In essence it isone nation, even though from an external point of view it is dispersed.”

To explain this matter Rav Kook uses a parable. The best possible healing takes place when the body makes use of its own strengths and exposes its own wellsprings of power in order to cure itself, “making use of its unknown soul.” This is true of the community of Yisrael. In essence it is truly one nation, as is written, “Who else is like Your nation Yisrael, one nation on the earth?” [Shmuel II 2:7]. While we judge the nation based on its external appearance, it should really be seen from the point of view of its internal forces, which are not always revealed. We must believe that we have within us a hidden force. “It is full of power, and it has the strength to put us on our feet, to renew our lives as in ancient times. It also allows us to stand up against all the Amaleks who wish to take advantage of the weak ones among us.”

In another place, Rav Kook writes: “The love for Yisrael is a consequence of the belief that a Divine light shines on the community of Yisrael, and that this is an inherent trait that will never be taken away as time goes on” [Orot, page 148]. “And the hidden Judaism which is also unknown to us is the great soul of the nation... It will make itself known to us in these great times. And from the unknown place within the soul of the nation will come the blessing, ‘Go and gather all the Jews.’” And based on the mitzva of the day, to drink so much that one does not differentiate between good and evil, when everything is in a hidden state, “The heavenly recognition will come to find the unknown Jewish soul within us – brother will get to know brother, and each one will give a hand to the other.”

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