This week, we read of an event very similar to what we are experiencing. Avraham goes to war to free Lot, who was taken captive.1 Though Lot was Avraham’s nephew,2 the Torah describes him as Avraham’s ach (brother).3 Why?
Rabbeinu Bachaya explains that Avraham saw Lot as his brother, a first-degree relative he was responsible for rescuing. Though a major disagreement with Lot had led to their separation, Avraham chose to focus on his brotherly relationship with Lot. He rushed out (and endangered his life) to save him.
Like Avraham, recent events have brought us to focus on our relationship with our Jewish relatives. Hamas’s savage massacre and captivity of (over 200+) our Jewish brothers and sisters and the attacks upon Jewish communities worldwide have reawakened our sense of Jewish brotherhood. A fractured people a mere two weeks ago have come together to defend themselves and care for one another.
Many see the attacks as caused by our lack of achdut, unity. Chazal teach us that we fall in battle when we are not unified.4 Indeed, Hamas has stated that our divisiveness convinced them the time was right to attack.
Our response must address this issue. In addition to supporting the soldiers, civilians and the State of Israel, we need to create achdut and ensure that it continues beyond the coming weeks and months.
Like other life experiences, the Hamas attack is an extension of Hashem’s Hand and thus has a message for us. If we were punished for our divisiveness, vanquishing Hamas while remaining divided will not solve the true root of the problem, the problem with us. We need to heed Hashem’s message and ensure that we emerge from this crisis unified in a meaningful and sustainable way.
Baruch Hashem many communities are arranging achdut initiatives. We need to ensure that these initiatives include all Jews of all types. Though, like Avraham and Lot, we are different and disagree with one another, we need to remember that we are all brothers and sisters and treat each other accordingly.
This is the first goal of the Acheinu WorldWide Jewish Unity Program—to inspire achdut efforts that are personal, deep and inclusive.
Each of us should seek to resolve disputes we have with family, friends, neighbors and associates. Are there people we don’t speak to? Are there people we should act more friendly towards? Are there Jews who we live near or interact with, with whom we do not yet have a relationship? We should be strengthening our personal relationships with all Jews.
Communally, we should seek ways to learn, pray and protest together (in ways appropriate for all Jews) as one unified Jewish community. We disagree on many fundamental issues, but we are all one family. We now have the opportunity and the responsibility to highlight this perspective.
Now is the time to emphasize that we are all:
one people, one family, one fate.
Even if we accomplish this, we will still lack a crucial component…
We Are Not Alone
Later in the parsha, Hashem informs Avraham of his descendants’ upcoming exile: “Yado’a teida ki geir yihyeh zarachah b’eretz lo lahem, You should surely know that your children will be a foreigner in a land that is not theirs…”5 There is an apparent discrepancy between “ger (a foreigner),” which is singular, and “zar’acha (your children),” which is plural.
The sefer Asifat Chachamim explains that one consequence of exile is the feeling of loneliness, isolation and separation from the rest of the Jewish people scattered across the world.6 The experience of exile is an experience of ger, of feeling like an individual, as opposed to part of Klal Yisrael. The geula (redemption) process, then, includes overcoming that feeling of aloneness and connecting to Klal Yisrael.
We have grown accustomed to seeing ourselves as part of the Jewish people in a particular community, city or country. Even if we connect to those who live in our country and those in Israel, we feel disconnected from Jews in other countries. We live in different countries immersed in different cultures and speak different languages. Are we really one people? Do we feel that way?
True Jewish unity unifies all Jews across the world. This is the second goal of the Acheinu WorldWide Jewish Unity Program—to connect Jews and achdut efforts in communities and countries worldwide. Acheinu bridges the gaps of distance, culture and language by coordinating achdut efforts in over 50 countries in 12 languages and including them all under one roof.
Acheinu’s first international initiative is the Acheinu Global Siyum.
In advance of the sheloshim (of the massacre), Jews worldwide will, iy”H, learn Mishnayot in memory of the fallen. The Acheinu Global Siyum gives us all a chance to learn together parallel to Jews in tens of other countries and hundreds of other communities.
Learning this way will help us feel connected to one another during these challenging times. Jews in New York and London will be reminded of those in Malta and Tanzania and those in Zambia and Finland can feel connected to larger communities in London and Toronto.
May strengthening our kesher (connection) with our brothers next door, and around the world, merit our brothers’ liberation from captivity.
May learning, davening and commemorating as one united family give us strength to face and overcome challenges together.
For more information about the Acheinu International Unity Initiative and to sign up for the siyum, see acheinu.world.
Rav Reuven Taragin is the dean of Overseas Students at Yeshivat Hakotel and the educational director of World Mizrachi.
1 Bereishit 14.
3 14:14, 14:16.
4 Bamidbar Rabbah 19:2.
6 See also Rashi, Bereishit 47:28.