Friday, May 18, 2018

A Momentous Occasion of Pure Achdus*

Invitation to a very special wedding
We are on the eve of a momentous occasion. The world has for weeks been counting down to this regal event. Tomorrow it will have finally arrived to the great joy of the entire world. Meghan Markle will be getting married to Prince Harry. (Not me. A different Prince Harry.)

It was the lead story this morning on the CBS Morning News and has been among the top stories every evening for weeks now - on just about every major mainstream media outlet. 

I wish I could say I’m surprised that the 6th person in line to the throne of the British Empire gets more attention than the meeting between the the President of the United States and the Communist dictator of North Korea to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But that didn’t quite make it to the top. Nope – the marriage of 2 of the most insignificant people in the world did.

For me, the wedding of a British Royal who is 6th in line to a monarchy that has no more relevance than a bucket of warm spit (to paraphrase former Vice President John Nance Garner) – is a non event. And yet the world can’t get enough of it. And the media is all too willing to accommodate them with endless talk about who will walk Ms. Markle down the aisle; or what her gown will look like; or who will or won’t be invited. What a vacuous world we live in!

Not so the Jewish people. We too have been counting down the days to our own momentous event. It is a marriage of a different sort: Kabbolas HaTorah. Tomorrow night on the sixth of Sivan we begin Shavuos, the day God gave us the Torah at Sinai. Choosing us - His people Israel - over all other nations.

We too had anticipation. We united: VaYichen Shom Yisroel Neged HaHor. And Israel encamped opposite the mountain (Sinai). Rashi adds, K’Ish Echad B’Lev Echad. We were united as a people like one man with one heart - unlike any other time in history.

The Gemarah in Zevachim (116a) tells us that at that moment the nations of the world gathered in front of Ballam and asked him  a strange question. Was the world going to be destroyed again in a catastrophic flood? Ballam told them, no, this was not the case. HaShem Oz L’Amo Yitain - God was giving His people strength. They responded by saying HaShem Yevarech Es Amo BaShalom – May God bless His people with peace!

In order to understand the unique value of this kind of unity we need look no further than our own time where we often experience  a different kind of unity. A type of unity that unfortunately occurred many times in Jewish history. A unity based on tragedy.

When a tragedy strikes we often unite around it as a people. Let me illustrate by excerpting from a post I wrote on June 3rd 2015:
One year ago today, I6 Sivan 5774 on the Hebrew Calendar, Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel, and Gilad Shaar, HY’D were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists. The entirety of world Jewry had united in solidarity with the parents of those three teenagers. It didn’t matter what Hashkafa one had.
There was a feeling of pure Achdus. Unity. We were not Charedi, Modern Orthodox (MO), Dati, Religious Zionist or secular. We were not Orthodox, Conservative or Reform. We were the Jewish people - feeling the pain of our brothers and sisters in Israel. It was a moment in time of pure magic. A time where our differences were forgotten or ignored as irrelevant.  
We can now understand why the nations of the world asked Ballam if a catastrophic flood was about to descend upon the world. The only unity they understood was the type where people unite under tragic conditions. So when they heard that the people of Israel were uniting as one with a single heart, they though that perhaps God had revealed that he was going to destroy the world again. Why else would they unite?

That, says Rav Meir Shapiro of Lublin, is not a true unity. It is a situational unity that quickly dissipates once the tragedy passes – it quickly becomes ‘business as usual’. Everyone returns to their own agenda.

This was Ballam’s wise message. The people of Israel were not united in tragedy. They were united because of the great gift they were about to be given. A gift to His people intending for us to be a ‘light unto the nations’ and build up  the world  with God’s kingdom. For one brief moment in time, the nations of the world appreciated that and blessed God’s people, Israel with peace. Because unlike the fleeting kind of unity based on tragedy the unity experienced by the people of Israel on that momentous occasion was the ultimate unity.

Good Yom Tov

*Taken in part from Torah L’Daas by Rabbi Matis Blum.