April 20, 2024
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Asara B’Teves: Different Paths, One Direction

I first learned about the unique nature of Asara B’Teves from Rabbi J.J. Shacter on one of his superhuman, all-day Tisha B’Av kinos explanations at Keter Torah. Rabbi Shacter explained that if Asara B’Teves falls out on a Shabbos (which it doesn’t, because the Jewish calendar was arranged intentionally to avoid it) we would still fast, much like on Yom Kippur. The Chasam Sofer extrapolates that Asara B’Teves is when the heavenly Bais Din determined that the Bais Hamikdash would be destroyed and continues to gather on Asara B’Teves to determine the fate of the Bais Hamikdash in the coming year. (See a 2015 piece by Rabbi Chaviv Danesh, reprinted in The Jewish Link, December 21, 2017: https://tinyurl.com/mvxacykw). With the element of judgment on Asara B’Teves, particularly in regards to the possibility of Geula, it may be a natural point in the year to consider ahavas Yisroel.

As someone who appreciates metaphors, I was struck recently by the realization that almost every single thing in our world and universe comprises several different components that come together for a singular function: the human body, our homes, our clothes, music, gardens, food items, and any sports team. A salad composed only of lettuce is not as exciting as one with a balance of multiple textures and flavors, and a jacket consisting only of sleeves would not be particularly useful. The differing elements are not problematic or something that we learn to make do with—they are what make everything in our world possible and beautiful.

This idea is likewise embedded in the fabric of the Jewish people. We were never meant to all be the same. The foundational elements of 12 shevatim and 70 Panim L’Torah, among others, reinforce the notion that we each have different roles to play by design. Different strengths, different abilities. That sheds an alternate light on how we can look at the Jewish nation as a whole. We were never meant to look the same or be the same. Rav Kook, zt”l highlights that different groups of Jews have particular kochos and that we need them all.

What does matter, however, is what we are working towards—hopefully a greater relationship with Hashem.

Perhaps, this idea is beautifully exemplified by the mitzvah of being Oleh Regel on Succos, Pesach and Shavuous—Jews coming from different places, taking different paths, yet heading in one direction—all towards Yerushalayim to serve Hashem.

The outpouring of ahavas Yisroel over the past few months has been outstanding and exceptionally heartening.

Jews have increasingly been looking inward, thinking about their unique strengths and abilities and how to use them for the klal.

May we continue to build on the momentum of the past few months and may we continue to recognize the unique strengths and beauty in one another.

And may Hashem decide that this year, we are ready.


Grunny Zlotnick is a resident of Teaneck and active in a number of local organizations.

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