Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers (and sisters) to dwell together in unity. (Psalm 133.)
Last week, we celebrated the joyous holiday of Shavuot, the festival of the Giving of the Torah. We read Exodus 19 which describes how the Israelites encamped close to Mount Sinai.
They (Israelites) “ journeyed from Refidim, and they arrived in the desert of Sinai, and they encamped in the desert, and Israel encamped there opposite the mountain.”
Rashi points out that when the Torah says Israel encamped opposite the mountain, it switches to the singular, as if the nation did so as one. “As one man, with one heart.” Rashi says that in this venture, all of the people were united and unanimous.
Rabbi Noach Weinberg z”l wrote that unity was a “necessary prerequisite before Hashem could give us His Torah.” This moment in time and history was too fundamental to equivocate. Even though we have been rightly described as contentious, argumentative and stiff-necked, on this we were all very clear. The Torah is, and always will be, our lifeline. It connects us to Hashem and to each other for all time. We were as united on this point at Mount Sinai as we have ever been. A similar insight can be derived from this week’s Torah portion of Naso. When the Kohanim were commanded to bless the people (Numbers 6:24-26), the blessing was stated in the singular. Again, the commentators say this teaches us that there is no greater blessing than that of unity. We ought to focus not on the differences between us, but on the fact that each of us is beloved and created in G-d’s image.
No matter what our opinions or our observance, we are forever linked to each other. I wish you and all of Klal Yisrael Shabbat shalom. PJC
Rabbi Eli Seidman is director of pastoral care at the Jewish Association on Aging. This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.