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United We Stand, Divided We Fall.

Written by שי טחן, 6/3/2024


United We Stand, Divided We Fall.

Rabbi Shay Tahan


Parshat Vayakhel starts with this word, referring to the gathering of the nation as Moshe instructed them about the building of the Mishkan. The pasuk says something quite remarkable: "the entire nation assembled." Now, how could that be? In normal circumstances, it is almost impossible to gather an entire nation for one task, as many people have different outlooks on life, and many would not agree with Moshe Rabbenu's message. Even more so, a nation that was so divided, as they were at the time. They had just created the golden calf, murdered Chur, and attempted to murder Aharon HaKohen. Hashem testified that the nation had been corrupted and strayed from His way. The nation had been complaining about Moshe for so many different things(שמות לב, ז) .

It appears the nation had a change of heart, but what caused it? It seems that only a catastrophe has the ability to bring people together, and that is exactly what had just happened. After the sin of the calf, there was a terrible plague, and three thousand people of the nation died(שמות לב, כח) . When three thousand people from a small nation die, it hits everyone close to home. It seems like everyone knew someone who had died, and it made a deep impression on them. This could have been the wake-up call that shook every person to their core. That could have been what caused people to unite.

Chazal (בראשית רבה לח, ו) emphasize this concept of being heavenly protected when we are unified, highlighting the difference between the generation of Noah, when Hashem sent the Flood, and the generation of the Dispersion, when the people tried to build a tower to reach Hashem and fight Him(רש״י בראשית יא, א) . Of course, the sin of the generation of the Dispersion was much worse, but still, the punishment for them was much lighter. The generation of the Flood all drowned to death, while those of the tower were only dispersed.

Rashi(בראשית יא, ט)  asks what the reason for the reversed punishment was, and he answers as follows: "The generation of the Flood were violent robbers and there was strife among them, and therefore they were destroyed; but those of the generation of the Dispersion conducted themselves in love and friendship, as it is said, 'They were one people and had one language.' You may learn from this how hateful to God is strife and how great peace is"

We see that even in our generation, when we were so divided, the catastrophe united us. However, as people get used to the current situation, many start dividing again. We should learn from this not to wait for the next catastrophe in order to unite.


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