Jews must stay united, strong

BY RABBI HYIM SHAFNER

This week’s Torah Portion begins, “You are standing today, all of you, before the Lord your God, your leaders, your judges, your elders, and your guards; all the Jewish People. You, your wives, and the stranger who is in your camp, from the woodchopper to the drawers of your water. To enter into the Divine covenant…”

Several questions come to mind. Isn’t the word “today” superfluous? Why enumerate all the different groups and classes among the nation, just say “all of the Jewish People”? What covenant is this that the Jews are entering, there have been several covenantal moments in their history prior to this point, why weren’t those enough?

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The Midrash Tanchumah, bothered by the extra word “today,” writes on this verse: “It will only be a time of day, of light, for the Jewish people when they stand as one united group.” Thus the verse says: ‘today’. Just as with sticks, so to with the Jewish People, if they are in a tight bundle they can not be broken, but if they are separated even a child can snap them.”

The same Midrash is also bothered by the repetition in the verses of each subgroup and class: “Though I have appointed various groups, says God, each is equal in my eyes, as the verse says, ‘all the Jewish People’. In addition, this unifier comes to teach us that we are all responsible for each other, all rewarded and punished for each other’s actions. Not just the great ones among you but all Jews, for humans will take kindly to one person and not another, but God is ‘merciful to all His creatures, the women and the men, the righteous and on the wicked.'”

This covenant that the Jewish People enter into just before entering the Land of Israel is one of arayvut, of co-signership, of complete responsibility for each other. Through this covenant the Jews become not just a nation but an actual family, completely responsible for each other and for each other’s actions. We are told that it is only through this kind of extreme interdependence and caring that we can merit to have the Torah and to ultimately, be redeemed.

At this time of year when we are all embarking on a journey of tishuvah, of spiritual return, let us commit ourselves to one new thing we will do this year to reach out to a fellow Jew, to help them, to greet them with a smile, to teach them, to support them. Not just the righteous but the wicked among us too, not just the elders but the young also, not just the wealthy but the woodchoppers also. Through this unconditional love and caring for our fellow Jew we will surely merit great redemption and forgiveness, speedily in our day.

Amen.

This week’s Torah Portion was prepared by Rabbi Hyim Shafner of Bais Abraham Congregation.

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