Adar is the month when we must work on unity

As we head into the month of Adar when the Jews of Shushan united, we need to:"assemble all the Jews" in unity as Esther and Mordechai did.

Avi Lasdun ,

Avi Lasdun
Avi Lasdun
Courtesy

Much has been written about how the holiday of Purim, as well as the undercurrent of the actual Purim story, is about [1 ]building unity (achdus) within the Jewish nation. In his conniving overture to King Achashveirosh to rid the Persian empire of Jewish life, Haman said, “There is a certain people who are scattered and dispersed among the people.” Haman saw a lack of unity among the Jews and reckoned it was the perfect time to strike.

To cancel the evil decree, Esther understood that it was critical to foster unity among the Jews and hence, she ordered, “Go assemble all of the Jews …” to come together for fasting and prayer. [2] The Purim story is a lesson for all times, that to rescind harsh decrees, the Jewish people must unite, put aside their differences and act as one unified entity. The theme of Jewish unity is also reflected in the Mitzvos of Purim day, especially Matanos L’Evyonim and Mishloach Manos.

What is the nature of unity, achdus, and how is it attained? We can certainly understand the shared sorrow and unity that arose within the Jewish nation following the promulgation of Haman’s evil decree. However, under less dire circumstances, it seems difficult to conceptualize unity within our people, especially at a time when strife and discord regularly wafts through the air all around us.

If we examine history and the constant news cycle, seemingly living harmoniously with fellow citizens is very unnatural and not within our genetic makeup. The ideal of achdus seems like an unreasonable fantasy – how can we hope to attain it?

A deeper dive into the nature of relationships, between man and man and between man and G-d, however, demonstrates that opposite is true: Unity is quite natural and attainable. In the Sefer Tomer Devorah, [3] Rebbi Moshe Cordovero writes that all Jewish souls are combined, a phenomenon described by [4] Rav Yeruchem Levovitz as Ichud HaNefashos (the unification of Jewish souls). While an in-depth understanding is beyond our scope, there is an organic connection that tethers all Jewish souls together.

The “glue” that connects us together is that all Jewish souls are Chelek Elokah Mima’al, an extension of G-d Himself ([5] Rav Yechezkel Levenstein) or, as the [6] Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev describes, all Jewish souls were “hewn” out of the same Divine “quarry.” Our common roots to the One G-d binds all Jewish souls to each other.

Given this information, the question becomes flipped: Why is achdus such a tantalizingly difficult goal to attain?

One can think of ourselves possessing “vertical” roots to the Almighty. These roots can either be strong and healthy or, frail and sickly. In addition, we also have “horizontal” connections to fellow Jews. G-d, in His wisdom, has ordained that serving Him properly requires a community. The more we focus on strengthening our community, the healthier our inter-personal connection becomes. Moreover, when these horizontal bonds are strengthened, we also effect change in Heavenly spiritual worlds.

The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 15:18) likens G-d’s majesty to a palace built on boats: “As long as the boats are connected, the palace upon them will stand … When is His (G-d’s) throne, so to speak, established above? When Israel becomes one bundle (‘Agudah Achas’).” G-d has ordained that His sovereignty becomes established when the Jewish people unite to form “one bundle”. Thus, we have come full circle: Our common roots to G-d lay the foundation to form healthy inter-personal bonds, which enable us to establish G-d’s sovereignty, and in doing so, our roots to G-d become enriched.

We return to the question: What is the “fly in the ointment” (or for Superman fans, what is the “kryptonite”) that prevents these lofty ideals from coming to fruition?

The answer is self-absorption. Becoming self-absorbed with my own desires and success, even my own spiritual success, derails us from developing either “horizontal” inter-personal bonds or “vertical” roots to G-d.

Rav Yechezkel Levenstein’s declares “This is the principle upon which the world exists – there are no individuals in the world.” Individual success has no sustainability and little “exchange value” in G-d’s currency. We are duty-bound to dedicate our efforts, our worries and time to ensure that the service of G-d, Avodas Hashem, of our neighbor or neighboring community is on an upward incline, sometimes even at the expense of our own spiritual growth.

We can understand this by way of an analogy to a human kingdom or government (Rav Levenstein, ibid). If I love the leader of my country, certainly I would not be satisfied by my own obedience to the country’s laws. The peace and wellbeing of all the country’s citizens depends on everyone’s loyalty and commitment to the country’s success; any breach in the law obedience by one person or one group adversely affects all their fellow citizens. In the same way, if we love the Almighty, there is no room for smugness, thinking “my Shul is better than the one down the block”, or “we are more committed to Torah study than the parents who send their children to that other school.”

The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 4:6) calls the Jewish people “Nefesh Achas” - a single soul. [7] Rav Levenstein, based on the above Tomer Devorah, explains that the “Nefesh Achas” appellation is to be taken literally, not merely as an analogy. When I have a tooth abscess, the pain can radiate to the jawbone, neck or ear. Similarly, any suffering or spiritual defect in another person’s home radiates to all fellow Jews – we all experience it as our own pain or our personal spiritual defect. If we believe the neighboring community’s spiritual level is off course, then it is up to us to find an amiable and kindhearted approach to help them straighten their ship, rather than pointing the finger of disapproval at them.

My father told me that the founding Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland, Rav Eliyahu Meir Bloch, ZT”L, felt the same responsibility to ensure proper Mitzvah observance in the Cleveland Jewish community as ensuring the survival of his Yeshiva. When he became aware of a scheduled mixed dancing event in one of the synagogues, he left the yeshiva to speak at the synagogue to convince them to cancel the event, despite the potential of eroding financial support for his yeshiva.

If we beat our own chests smugly saying, “our house is in order and the problem is with the next person,” our own roots to G-d weaken and we will find ourselves withering away in short order, no matter how devoted we are in our personal spiritual growth.

As we head into the month of Adar and approach the holiday of Purim, we need to take stock of ourselves, to determine how much concern we have for the next person’s spiritual growth, what can we do to help someone else’s home or Shul become a place worthy of the Divine Presence (Shechinah) dwelling in it. This is not the time for looking at others with disapproval and certainly not to scorn anyone, no matter how far we think they are off course. The more we concern ourselves with helping our fellow Jew in his devotion to Hashem, the more beautiful a palace we build for the King of the entire world as the Midrash picturesquely depicts. And in the long run, our own roots to Hashem will become strengthened – so it is a purely win-win situation!

I wrote a “prayer poem” to express my wishes that the Jewish people unite:

Our dear Father in Heaven, we are so privileged
To be Your children, Your princes and princesses
Each of us is a vital part of one holy family
Therefore, we plead and implore You – to send us great help
That we shall unite – as one nation, one family, with one heart.

Master of the world, in Your great kindness
You breathed into us a Divine portion of Yourself from Above
Our souls crave and yearn to be one with You
If only we would abandon our differences, to be one, together
Then, our souls will truly proclaim, “Hashem is One and His Name is One.”

Please instill into our hearts the burning desire to unite to fulfill Your will
Father dear, all we need is Your immense help to actualize this dream
So that we will sanctify Your great Name before the entire world
When they behold the beauty of Your children
The children of Your loved ones, one united and holy nation on earth.

Sources

1Silver from the Land of Israel: A New Light on the Sabbath and Holidays from the Writings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook, by Rabbi Chanan Morrison. Urim Publications, 2010.

2The Mitzvot of Purim and Unity, by Nachum Mohl: http://www.jewishmag.com/111mag/purimmitvot/purimmitvot.htm

3Sefer Tomer Devorah: Middah 4: Lisheiris Nachalaso.

4Daas Chochmah U’Mussar, vol. 3. Ma’amar “Inyan HaAveilus - Nosei B’ol”

5Ohr Yechezkel, Chelek Middos, Ma’amar “Himlachta es Chaviercha”

6Kedushas Levi, Peirushei Agudos, 37

7Ohr Yechezkel, Chelek Middos, Ma’amar “Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh L’Zeh”

Avi Lasdun studied at Telshe Yeshiva in Ohio, following in the footsteps of his father who studied in the original Telshe Yeshiva in Lithuania. He attended Touro College and City University of New York, obtaining graduate levels in Biomedical Sciences, worked in the Pharmaceutical industry and now works in the medical billing business. He has published two booklets, on Multifetal Pregnancy Reduction and on Nosei B’ol Im Chaveiro (sharing another person's hardships) which are freely available on the websites of Olami and OUTORAH. He lives in Washington Heights.



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