April 18, 2024
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United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Every parent holds high hopes and desires for their children to get along harmoniously. When disagreements arise, parents often feel deep disappointment and seek ways to mend their children’s relationships. They may engage in heartfelt conversations or create situations that encourage reconciliation.

Likewise, Hashem, the Father of His children, the people of Israel, yearns for their unity, love, and mutual respect. When the children of Israel stand together as one, they can achieve almost any task. However, when divisions fracture their unity, it often leads to catastrophe. This theme is evident in the Torah and throughout our history.

The call for unity among the people of Israel is explicitly stated in various passages within the Tanach. Here are a few examples:

Tehillim 133:1: This psalm begins with the famous line, שִׁ֥יר הַֽמַּעֲל֗וֹת לְדָ֫וִ֥ד הִנֵּ֣ה מַה־טּ֭וֹב וּמַה־נָּעִ֑ים שֶׁ֖בֶת אַחִ֣ים גַּם־יָֽחַד

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” This psalm extols the virtue of unity among the people of Israel, comparing it to precious anointing oil.

Prophetic Calls for Unity: The Neviim, our prophets, repeatedly called for unity as part of their broader message of repentance and spiritual renewal. For example, the book of Isaiah contains numerous passages emphasizing reconciliation and the hope for a unified and redeemed Israel.

Ezekiel 37:15-28 (The Vision of the Two Sticks): In this passage, Ezekiel is given a vision of two sticks, symbolizing the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Hashem instructs Ezekiel to join the two sticks together, symbolizing the reunification of Israel and Judah into one nation. This passage is a powerful image of unity.

Amos 9:11-12: Amos foretells the restoration and unity of Israel, promising that God will rebuild the fallen shelter of David and gather the remnant of Edom and the nations.

In the Bible, disunity often led to dire consequences, including divided kingdoms, foreign invasions, loss of spiritual focus, prophetic warnings, and internal conflicts.

These consequences are documented in different historical and prophetic texts. These are some of the key outcomes of disunity among the Israelites:

Divided Kingdom: One of the most significant consequences of disunity occurred after the reign of King Solomon. His policies and the burdens of his reign led to the division of the kingdom into two separate entities: the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah). This division resulted in a weakened and divided Israel.

Foreign Invasions and Exile: The divided kingdoms were more vulnerable to external threats. Both Israel and Judah faced invasions by foreign powers, leading to the eventual destruction of their capital cities (Samaria for Israel and Jerusalem for Judah) and the exile of many of their people.

Loss of Spiritual Focus: Disunity often resulted in a loss of spiritual focus and moral decline. The Israelites would sometimes turn away from their faith and engage in idolatry, which provoked God’s anger and led to consequences like famine, military defeat, and suffering.

Prophetic Warnings: The prophets, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, often warned the people about the consequences of their disunity and disobedience. These prophets spoke of impending judgment, exile, and suffering as a result of the people’s failure to unite in their commitment to God and each other.

Loss of Blessings: Disunity could result in a loss of God’s blessings. The covenant between God and the Israelites included promises of prosperity and protection if they remained faithful and united. Conversely, disunity and disobedience could lead to the withdrawal of these blessings.

Internal Conflict: Disunity also led to internal strife and conflict within the divided kingdoms. Rivalries, political intrigue, and social unrest were common in both Israel and Judah.

When Israel was not united in faith and obedience, they were more vulnerable to challenges and threats. The unity and faithfulness of the people was essential for their survival and prosperity.

Regrettably, recent times have seen a deep division among the Jewish people in Israel, resulting in two opposing camps—one religious and one secular; one right, one left; one in power and one in the opposition. This disunity is deeply troubling. We recall the unity during the 1967 war, which contributed to Israel’s miraculous success against overwhelming odds with the simultaneous attacks of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. In contrast, the recent tragic loss of over 1400 lives demonstrates the vulnerability caused by disunity.

When we completed the holiday of Sukkot, which celebrates God’s protection, it seems that these protective “clouds of Hashem” have disappeared. It’s worth pondering whether Hashem’s disappointment in the disunity of Israel was a major factor that a disaster of catastrophic proportions was needed as a catalyst for reunification.

This catastrophe, which has led to a profound sense of unity and Chesed (kindness) globally within the Jewish community, makes us realize the pettiness and irrelevance of our divisions. Let us hope and pray that this newfound unity will persist even after victory, for the pain we endure may very well be the birth pangs of Moshiach (the Messiah).

May this barbaric killing end swiftly, and may the IDF conclude the war quickly, leaving behind a lasting unity in Israel.


Rabbi Paul Bloom lives in Jerusalem with his wife Ettie. Paul is CEO of PDB FutureCom and is a board member of the NY/Israel Chamber of Commerce. He is a retired CTO of IBM Research.

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