Since we were young children it’s been impressed upon us the importance of achdus(unity). We are taught ‘’ein lecha kli hamachzik et habracha keshalom‘’. As well, every young child is familiar with the famous question of “Dayenu”. Had Hashem brought us to Har Sinai but had not given us the Torah would that still have been “Dayenu”? why?
What’s the point? If a man walks into a gift shop to redeem a gift yet walks out empty handed, he most definitely is not very satisfied.
The familiar answer to young and old goes like this.
The pasuk tells us “Vayeechan sham yisroel’’ Rashi tells us that the meaning of that is ‘’Keish echad belev echad’’ like one man with one heart. So great is unity that it would have been considered worthwhile to come to Har Sinai even with ought receiving the Torah, as long as they acquired that unity.
Definitely an amazing expression of the greatness in unity.
Furthermore, chazal tell us that when the wicked king Achav would go do battle he would be victorious with ought any casualties. In contrast to the righteous King David who would win but would sustain casualties. The Medrish explains this strange phenomena by focusing on the unique behavior patterns of each of those generations. The generation of King David were most certainly righteous, yet they lacked unity, they had amongst them slanderers. As opposed to the generation of king Achav, although they were evil and stooped in idol worship, nevertheless they possessed unity.
There is an enormous amount of emphasis on brotherhood and unity in the torah, to name some. We are all familiar with ‘’veahavta lereacha kamocha’’. Another famous one is ‘’what is hated upon you don’t do to your friend’’.
However, when we get to Sefer Devarim we seemingly confront a terrible contradiction. The Torah tells us of the order that the shvatim were to camp around the Mishkan. There was no deciding to pitch tent wherever they wanted. Say a person from Shevet Yehuda had many friends from Shevet Zevulun and understandably he would want to set up his tent with Shevet Zevulun, says the Torah, No, you stay put with your shevet.
Wouldn’t it encourage much more unity if everyone can choose where to live? Wouldn’t the different shvatim mingle more freely with each other?
Doesn’t the Torah want us to put our differences aside and unite?
Even more striking is the Mitzvahof Yovel. At the end of a fifty year cycle, all the land purchased in the last forty nine years goes back to its original owner. So imagine a hard working fellow from shevet Efraim buys some land from his friend in shevet Reuven. For forty nine years he’s there day in and day out working his fields, cultivating his crops, spending time on his own property. And then comes Yovel and the land returns to the owner from shevet Reuven. Doesn’t it seem as if the Torah is encouraging some form of segregation? Why can’t they mingle a bit more?
To get a proper understanding of what’s taking place here we need to take a step back and first answer a different question. What am I ?
Am I an individual or am I part of a community?
The truth is we are both, no matter how unique each and every one of us is, on a larger scale we are all part of some kind of community. We all belong to something bigger, whether it’s to our liking or not.
Now, expounding a bit more on this idea. Every person is unique in his or her own way; no two people are the same, no matter how similar they sometimes are. Each individual is blessed with his own strengths and talents, and also a set of weaker points. Just as this is true on an individual level, so too it is true on a communal level. Every community on a whole has its own unique strengths and weaknesses.
With this in mind let’s take a look at the Birchas Yackov.
Before his death Yakov avinu calls his children together so that he can bless them. First Reuven then Shimon followed by Levi, Yehuda and so on. Each one received his “own” unique bracha, no two were the same. Why give everyone a different bracha? Why not give them all the same,’’ you should be zoche to be an oved Hashem, a great talmid chochom, health , parnassah’’ etc….?
We can learn a great lesson from this: Yakov knew his sons well, even more he knew that their traits would be passed on to their children after them. He knew each one had strengths and weaknesses that the others didn’t posses. Yehuda was blessed with bravery yet he wasn’t blessed with the nag for business as zevulen was. Yissacher possessed many great Torah scholars, but Shimon and levi were destined to be melamdim in Klal Yisroel. Each son had his own unique strength, and based on that did Yakov bless them. It doesn’t mean that they were not united in any way; to the contrary they were extremely united. But they recognized that they were all different and each one had a different role to play in the mission and destiny of Kllal Yisroel as the chosen nation. Being different in no way implied that one was lacking or not as good as the others. In fact they recognized their differences and complimented each other- so together they were an amazing team.
Let’s take this idea and apply it to the questions we raised earlier. Yes the Jews are to camp separately, and yes the land goes back to original shevet by Yovel. This is because we are not all the same, we are different and unique, and the Torah wants us to preserve that.
Each one and every one of us has to recognize our own unique strength and potential, to actualize it so that it doesn’t go to waste.
This can also be applied on a communal level.
In fact that is unity, when opposites can coexist peacefully that is achieving real unity. When a couple gets married we call that unity, but when mother and daughter get along with each other we don’t necessarily see that as the beauty of unity. Having different ways to perceive things, and unique strengths in various directions doesn’t make one bad. In fact it would be wrong for one to suppress his strengths for the sake of being like everyone else, for Hashem gave you these talents for a reason.
To compliment this thought, I heard a brilliant insight in the name of Harav Y. Breitowits. We find that R’ Yisroel Salanter Z’’L had many students that went on to become leaders of their generation. To quote some, the A’lter from Slabodka, the A’lter from Kelm, R’ Itzelah Bluzer and so on. Now, these students all learned from him, they took everything they could from him. So how is it that they ended up forming their own methodology so different from each other? Didn’t they all sit and learn from the same person? How could one go on to form the method of Slabodka and the other Kelm or Novardok?
These ways are in extreme contrast to each another.
Based on what we explained earlier it all makes cents. They all sat at the feet of the same teacher, taking in all that they can. They then applied what they learned based on their own understanding of how to achieve their goals. Forming their own unique way based on their personal understanding and strengths. And this in no way implies that one is no good or that one is better than the other. Rather, we see from here that it’s okay for one to be and act the way Hashem created him, and it’s in no way an embarrassment to use the tools that Hashem has granted us.
To the contrary, if Hashem gave us certain tools we are to use them to bring honor to his name.