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Unity in Times Good and Bad

by Rabbi Eliezer Gurkow

  

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Anxiety Brought us Together

Disaster is the parent of opportunity. When the normal and routine are shaken, when calm and confidence are shattered, the patterns of life are altered and new opportunities are born.

It remains up to us to convert these opportunities into reality. It remains up to us to grasp that, if we permit it, even dark clouds can bear a sliver lining.

In May of 1967 the worldwide Jewish community joined in unprecedented unity to face the grave danger that threatened the land of Israel. Long standing fissures that had splintered our community were for the moment summarily dismissed. The enemy did not discriminate; he threatened the entire community and this brought us together.

Personal animosities and parochial differences were set aside. Jews who never visited Israel before traveled en mass to volunteer their help. Jews secure in distant countries contributed their lifesavings in defense of the land. At that moment, our unity was complete.

The impending crisis brought to the surface a devotion we never knew we possessed. An otherwise fragmented people was forced by a common enemy to find a common ground. The threat of incredible disaster gave rise to an incredible opportunity for unity and love.

With their families safely ensconced in distant lands, would they identify with their brethren in time of war?
Fertile, but Foreign Lands

As our ancestors approached the Promised Land, two tribes requested permission to settle in the fertile, but foreign lands outside of Israel. Moses acquiesced with only one stipulation. He asked that they join the Jewish army in times of war.1

Moses’ response is perplexing. Were these tribes an integral part of the nation in war, but not in peace? Were these tribes dispensable to the nation as long as its military strength was not affected?

I would like to offer a different perspective. Moses sought to difine the mindset of those who were prepared to break with their brethren in pursuit of material gain. Did they still see themselves as members of the Jewish nation or did the promise of bounty on the Jordan’s East Bank cause them to sever their ties with the Jewish nation?

The only litmus test that could prove their loyalty was their behavior in time of war. With their families safely ensconced in distant lands, would they identify with their brethren in time of war? Would they risk life and limb to come to the aid of their brethren? If they would draft an army and fight alongside their brethren they would pass the litmus test and demonstrate their true Jewish identity.

Why Do We Wait?

Though they viewed themselves as a common people their commonality did not emerge until it was threatened by war. In times of peace they were content to pursue their selfish dreams far from the rest of their family. That Jewish unity would suffer did not concern them as much as their own well being.2

This is unfortunately the other side of the coin. It is true that disasters parent opportunities for unity and hope, but it is frustrating that it takes a disaster to bring us together. Why can’t we appreciate each other in peace as we do in war? Why can’t we stand together at all times? Why must we wait for a crisis to show our unity and common identity?

Footnotes

  • 1. Numbers 22.
  • 2. This is why these tribes were the first Jews to be exiled from their land. Bamidbar Rabbah, 22:7. For a deeper perspective see Likutei Sichot, v. XIII pp. 189-191.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Philosophy » Messiah
Israel » Messiah

Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Noah
Tenth generation from Adam. Of all humankind, only he and his family survived the Flood which destroyed all civilization in the year 2106 BCE.
Isaiah
1. One of the greatest prophets, lived in the 7th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, containing the prophecies of Isaiah. The book is filled with prophecies concerning the Messianic redemption.