June 15, 2024
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June 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

We are all rightly preoccupied with the profoundly unsettling events of the past months. War, loss and dislocation have traumatic effects that are currently being experienced by so many. It is not only their problem; it is ours. Klal Yisrael has taken this to heart and responded with an inspired generosity of spirit, compassion and resources that has crossed geographic, social and ideological boundaries. This unity of spirit stands in sharp contrast to the sharp ideological divisions that produced so much internal strife and hatred preceding this war and that are sadly beginning to reappear.

Ideological divisions can tear us apart when we lose sight of the essential unity between us that makes it so natural for Jews everywhere to drop everything to do more for each other. They tear us apart when we forget that the future of the Jewish people is a joint project involving every part of our people. Our ideological divisions, however sharp, must never overwhelm the love and commitment we viscerally feel for each other and our commitment to a shared destiny.

Vayakhel Moshe—Moshe brought together the community. Ramban notes that this was the first step of the actual building of the Mishkan as this was to be a collective project, brought to fruition through the participation of the entire community. This is also the theme of Parshat Shekalim, where everyone was mandated to give a half shekel for the building project, making it a truly shared enterprise. The Talmud (Megillah 13b) teaches that this national campaign to fund the Temple service that was initiated each year on Rosh Chodesh Adar served as the antidote to Haman’s scheme in the story of Purim (see Tosfos Megillah 16a). This commitment to the joint national enterprise spiritually set the stage for our eventual victory in the Purim battle that the Talmud (Megillah 2a) refers to as zman kehilla lakol, a time when everyone needed to come together to stand up for their survival, l’hikahel v’la’amod al nafsham.

We therefore celebrate Purim as a day of unity and ahavat Yisrael. In the megillah, the call for unity was not symbolic or shallow; it was raw and real. Esther was safe in the palace, secure in her anonymity as she was not known as a Jew. But as Mordechai told her, a choice to escape the fate of the Jewish people would have led her to oblivion rather than survival. Instead, she realized she was an inseparable part of her people and chose to step forward and risk her life for the sake of the Jews, gaining for herself eternity. To Esther, her connection to her people was not a slogan; it was her reality. We emulate this in our own way each Purim—meaningfully though not nearly as dramatically—when we deploy our resources to benefit others in fulfillment of the mandates of mishloach manos u’matanos l’evyonim, coming together to provide each other with care and support.

It remains essential that we all keep these values and feelings at the forefront. The future of Klal Yisrael is our shared enterprise. We need each other, we love each other, and we will do anything for each other. Those feelings must dominate the future if we are to avoid repeating the tragedy of the recent past.


Rabbi Moshe Hauer is executive vice president of the Orthodox Union (OU), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization.

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