The spiritual power of unity

Uniting humanity in pursuit of a higher cause is one of the most powerful spiritual forces in the universe. We are united now more than ever before because we care.

Tags: Coronavirus
Leonard Grunstein

Judaism תרומת פלסמה עבור הרב ישעיהו הבר
תרומת פלסמה עבור הרב ישעיהו הבר

There is a miraculous unity that has emerged, as we all devote ourselves to performing the missions assigned to us in the war against Covid-19. 

Remarkably, representatives of government at all levels, with a minimum of partisanship and religious leaders on a non-denominational basis have joined together to urge us to comply with CDC instructions and local restrictions, in order to save others. Public gatherings at religious services eschewed because the overarching priority is to do everything possible to save lives. Prayer at home, especially at the same time, has become the new norm during this period of all out war against the invisible virus that is the enemy of all mankind. Rest assured G-d hears our collective prayers, even if we are not all in the same place together. 

Many sacrifices are being made to assure that those most at risk are safe, especially by our heroic healthcare professionals.
Many sacrifices are being made to assure that those most at risk are safe, especially by our heroic healthcare professionals. There are also acts of kindness, charity and just plain goodness by so many. Economic concerns are secondary, as we put people and health first. 

It was only a very short time ago that partisan bickering held sway and Congress was virtually deadlocked. It’s not a new condition. As Rabbi Yonasan Eybeshitz so eloquently pointed out as to Biblical Joseph and his brothers, instead of sitting together, speaking and remonstrating with each other and eventually making some sort of peace with one another, they refrained from talking and listening to each other. In essence, like so many today, they demonized each other. It was tragic then and it is every bit as unfortunate when it occurs today. Moreover, as the Talmud so poignantly concludes, the unintended consequences may be catastrophic. It was this kind of sordid behavior that was one of the major causes of the destruction of the Second Temple and the exile.

The Mishna records Hillel’s sage counsel not to separate from the community, rely just on your own judgment or ever be judgmental about another person. To put this in perspective, the Talmud exquisitely records that despite the profound and fundamental disagreements between members of the Schools of Hillel and Shamai, they did not refrain from marrying into one another’s families. There’s one big tent, which accommodates so many different points of views.

The Netziv advises that suspecting someone because they act differently was the source of the separation among people that doomed the Second Temple. It appears this non-constructive attitude continues to dog us even today. There is no excuse for this kind of behavior. It matters not that the person does this out of a sense of extreme religious piety or socially righteous indignation. The result is the same; it undermines the social cohesion of society and brings civilization to ruin. 

New ideas, creative thinking and unique perspectives may lead to innovation, which is fundamental to the development process. However, it is important to remember that it takes sign-on to bring a thought to fruition. This doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree on everything. Indeed, as the Talmud points out in a capital case, if all the judges unanimously agree on a finding of guilty, then the verdict is thrown out. The matter could not have been fully and properly analyzed unless there was some dissenting point of view. Nevertheless, after a thorough examination of the matter and registering of a variety of opinions, the majority ruled. Preserving the sanctity of the process was crucial and individual judges were prohibited from revealing how they each voted.

Good governance requires an open process where everyone is able honestly to express his and her individual points of views. However, it also requires coming together to make needed compromises and accommodations and reaching agreement on a solution. Good leadership provides a conducive environment that fosters open and respectful discussions, forthright expression of honest views, questioning of positions, presentations of factual proofs and due deliberation. Great leadership is able to fashion a consensus in favor of the ultimate decision and achieve sign-on by most, if not all, participants in the process. This is essential, because the next step is effectuating the decision and more importantly achieving the intended result. This typically requires pooling of resources and talents, adaptability, improvisation and initiative, which are critical ingredients in accomplishing goals. This is not easily achieved unless everyone is faithfully devoted to achieving the result.  

Thankfully, this is what happened in Congress. For the most part the overwhelming majority worked together on a non-partisan basis and with the President. Despite a few raucous dissenters, virtually everyone came together to accomplish an extraordinary measure, signed into law by the President, to help those in need. It is hard not to recognize the role of Divine Providence guiding us in this worldwide health emergency. 

This is no local phenomenon. It is happening all over the world. Indeed, last week also brought good news in Israel about Benny Gantz joining with Bibi Netanyahu and putting aside partisan differences. They decided to try to form what amounts to a national unity government in light of the Covid-19 health crises. After three successive bitter attempts at elections to solve the matter of who would govern, finally sanity may have prevailed. This was almost unimaginable even just a few weeks ago. 

Uniting humanity in pursuit of a higher cause is one of the most powerful spiritual forces in the universe. The power of unity to invoke Divine Providence is so great that the Talmud and Midrash speak of G-d protecting even idolaters who are unified and at peace together. 

We are united because we care. It is unprecedented that most of the world is putting their economic and other interests on hold in order to protect the elderly and others most at risk.

May G-d protect us and keep us safe and well and inspire those working on a cure and vaccine to succeed.