July 21, 2024
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The Importance of Unity Among Our People

Joseph was separated from his brothers for approximately 22 years before they were reunited. The separation begins when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, and he was taken to Egypt. In Egypt, Joseph faced various challenges, including being falsely accused and imprisoned. Eventually, he interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and rises to a position of power in Egypt. The dramatic reunion with his brothers occurs during a famine when they come to Egypt seeking food, and Joseph, now a high-ranking official, reveals his identity to them (Bereishit chapters 37-45.) He is able to reconcile with them and recognizes that all that had occurred was part of a divine plan that was playing itself out for the good and future welfare of the Jewish people.

According to the Maharal (Gur Aryeh, Bereishit 45:14), the tears that accompanied the embrace of Joseph and his brother Benjamin, when Joseph revealed himself in Egypt, were tears of joy. This was because the long separated brothers were able to foresee the prophesy of Ezekiel (37:15-28), included in the Haftorah, coming to fruition.

Ezekiel had a vision whereby the disbursed 10 tribes of Israel would be reunited with their brothers in the Kingdom of Judea, made up of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Ezekiel is instructed to take two sticks, one for Joseph (representing the northern kingdom of Israel) and one for Judah (representing the southern kingdom). He is told to join them together into one stick, symbolizing the reunification of the divided nation. This visual metaphor carries a profound message about the strength that comes from unity. The two sticks, once separate and distinct, become a singular force when brought together, highlighting the transformative power of unity. God promises to bring together the children of Israel, scattered throughout the nations, bring them to their own country, and forge them into a single, unified nation.

Ezekiel 37:26 speaks of a divine covenant of peace, a promise of reconciliation and harmony. The covenant of peace signifies a return to a state of divine favor and blessings. As we reflect on this covenant, we are reminded that the pursuit of unity must be guided by principles of justice and righteousness. The covenant of peace challenges us to strive for unity, grounded in traditional Torah ethical and moral values.

The importance of unity in modern times was underscored by recent events in Israel. Over the summer, Israeli demonstrations were erupting as secular Jews advocated a cultural standard more to their liking while the more observant Jews pushed for judicial reform and stricter codes of conduct enforced. There were disputes in Tel Aviv regarding whether a “mechitzah” (gender divider wall) should be set in place for Yom Kippur public worship services. Some even predicted that a cultural civil war was inevitable between the two factions. Things seemed bleak for a while.

All of that changed after the surprise Hamas attack and subsequent outbreak of war. Jews around the world united as never before. Record donations of money and practical items were sent for the war effort. Israeli secular Jews who had little affinity for religious observance were now asking to wear Tzitzit and don Tefillin. Charedi Israelis who had avoided military services in the past were now eagerly signing up for duty within the Israeli Defense Forces. Suddenly, we, as a people, were all one, fighting for a common cause.

The Talmudic statement, “Kol Yisrael areivim zeh bazeh, All of Israel is responsible for one another” (Shevuot 39a). It underscores the interconnectedness and mutual responsibility within the Jewish community. The idea is that each member of the community shares a responsibility for the well-being of others, promoting a sense of unity and collective responsibility.

The opening verse of Psalm 133, “Hinei ma tov u’ma-nayim, shevet achim gam yachad, Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity,” is often cited in Rabbinic literature to highlight the beauty and desirability of unity among the Jewish people. The verse is frequently quoted as a source of inspiration for fostering harmonious relationships within the community.

Various rabbinic leaders and thinkers have stressed the concept of “achdut Yisrael,” the unity of Israel, as a fundamental principle. This includes recognizing and respecting the diversity within the Jewish community while emphasizing the shared bonds and common destiny that unite all Jews.

A Chabad rabbi once explained it so well when he made the point that nine saintly men, tzadikim, cannot make a minyan. Yet, 10 secular Jewish men, even those with no Torah education or background, can constitute this prayer quorum. We don’t need to check the shape of one’s hat, the size of one’s yarmulka or the affiliation card at the door of the synagogue to allow in those individuals who sincerely want to participate in the prayer services.

The reunion of Joseph and his brothers serves as a powerful metaphor for the potential healing and strengthening of relationships within our own communities. Just as the brothers overcame past grievances, we are reminded to embrace forgiveness and foster unity among ourselves, recognizing that our shared heritage binds us together.

Similarly, the symbolism of Ezekial’s two sticks, the covenant of peace, and the vision of one shepherd all converge to emphasize the transformative power of unity guided by righteousness. May we draw inspiration from Ezekiel’s timeless vision, working towards a future where the people of Israel stand united, resilient, and committed to the enduring principles of brotherhood. As we witness the struggles in Israel, let us heed the call for brotherly love and unity, recognizing that our strength lies in standing together.


Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic, clinical psychologist and a member of the American Psychology-Law Society. He is the coordinator of Bikur Cholim/Chesed at Congregation Torah Ohr in Boca Raton, Florida. He can be reached at [email protected].

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