A Thought for the Week
Yesterday was the Tenth of Tevet. The day Nebuchadnezar began his occupation of Jerusalem. All the Jews had lived in Israel for eight hundred and fifty years. The Bais HaMikdash in Jerusalem, built by Shlomo HaMelech, was four hundred and ten years old. Generations of Jews had never considered living anywhere else but in Israel. That was our home. We had been there since the time of Joshua. Jerusalem was a given - until the Babylonians entered Yerushalayim.
The Medrash (peticha of Eicha Rabba) offers an analogy to the mood of the times. "The twelve families of Israel were divided. They were like two people sharing a new blanket during the bitter winter. One kept pulling the blanket toward himself and the other kept pulling the blanket toward himself. Finally the blanket ripped in half and became useless."
I became frightened when I read this Medrash. Israel to us is a "new blanket". It was given to us by G-d for protection against the bitter winter of Galus that we have been experiencing for centuries. As we took shelter under this cozy warm cover we began to pull. The blanket can tear in half.
I'd like to share a bit of Kabbala.
Yosef could no longer control himself. He told all the Egyptian aides to leave the room. He needed to be alone with his brothers.
The Zohar teaches that this moment was a moment of Yichud Elyon. In the heavens the souls of Yosef and his brothers needed to be reunited. The mirrored reunification had to take place in this world so that it could take place in the Heavens. In order for there to be complete bonding between the brothers no one else could be present in the room. They needed to be alone.
The Zohar compares this aloneness to the Kohein Gadol entering the Holy of Holies. No man was allowed in the Kodesh Hakodoshim when the Kohein stood before G-d. If someone else would be present, even an Angel, the bonding between the High Priest and G-d would be incomplete. Bonding requires privacy.
Why did the bonding between the brothers need to take place at this exact moment? Because the Name of Hashem is composed of the combined letters of the names of all the sons of Yaakov. As long as machlokes and estrangement separated them, the name of Hashem could not be whole. The balance between G-d's name of Justice and His name of Mercy could not be achieved. The survival of the Jewish people would be imperiled. At this moment, just before the sojourn of the Jewish people in Egypt, where they would endure a long and difficult Golus, Hashem's name and therefore the Jewish people had to be complete.
Hashem's Name, which represents His relationship with us, is directly affected by the unity of all of Israel. The Jewish people have to be alone with each other and bonded with each other so that there can be protection from above. Otherwise the blanket rips in half.
We are all preoccupied with our opinions of peace. It is important for all of us to understand that in order for there to be peace with our enemies, there must first be peace with each other. During these trying times let us all encourage peacefulness. Let's attend shiurim that teach peace, give Tzedaka to organizations that promote peace and speak words that will bond the families of Israel together. If there is someone you don't get along with, make a special effort at reconciliation. We need to create a Yichud Elyon. Don't do anything divisive. Don't hog the blanket.
May Hashem spread His holy and warm canopy of peace upon us and upon all of Israel.
Rabbi Yaacov Haber
Rabbi Haber is the OU's National Director of Jewish Education and the spiritual leader of the OU's Pardes Program
Comments and questions are very welcome
"A tree of life for those who embrace it"