Competition in the Wilderness: Still our Challenge

June 19, 2015  

The events of this week and the sedras we read last week and will read this Shabbat, combine in our minds and hearts in different ways.

One thing that should always have been clear but we sometimes tend to forget, is that being Jewish and being part of the Jewish People are not exactly synonymous. What I mean is that we sometimes tend to focus on ourselves as individuals when we think of our Jewishness. We each have the commitment that was made on our behalf at Sinai. We each are officially obligated to follow the Torah, to internalize Torah values, to observe the mitzvot and halacha to the best of our ability.

This doesn’t mean that every Jew takes this commitment seriously. It doesn’t mean that every Jew believes that there is a commitment. But from a Torah perspective, there is. As individual Jews, we are well aware that there are matters between each of us an G-d, and there are many other mitzvot that are of an interpersonal nature. Still, we think of ourselves as individuals. And we are. But we are much more than that. Without forfeiting that individuality, we must realize that being part of Klal Yisrael, part of the Jewish People is more than just an association of many individuals.

Contrary to the mathematical principle that the Whole is equal to the sum of its parts, for us, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The collective punishment of the Generation of the Wilderness (Dor HaMidbar) – the adult male population thereof – does not negate the individual, who is free to make his own decisions. Does one side with the 10 Meraglim or does one rally to the call of Kalev and Yehoshua? Does one side with Korach or does one side with Moshe Rabeinu. Fence sitting is not a really good option. Sadly, it is tragedy that often brings us to realize the significance of our being part of the Jewish People. I am sure that Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal are everyone’s brothers, sons, grandsons… in a very real way. And this binds the Jewish People together in a strong way.

Maybe our challenge, in addition to praying and learning, and doing acts of chessed so that we will merit a favorable outcome to the current situation, is to develop a true and deep sense of what it means to be, not just Jewish, but part of the Jewish People. Jews are different from each other in the level of commitment to Torah and Mitzvot – but there is only one Jewish People, and that is something we should learn to value and appreciate in good times…and always.

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