Shavuot Asulin

Shavuot with Rabbi Asulin

Torah brings unity – really?

Many know the Pasuk (Shemot 19:1): “וַיִּֽחַן־שָׁ֥ם יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל נֶ֥גֶד הָהָֽר” – “and Israel encamped there opposite the mountain”.  Known is Rashi’s comment on the word “ויחן” [the singular form, denoting that they encamped there] “as one man with one heart”.

Such a romantic description of Am Yisrael ready to receive the Torah.  But when we try think of the Torah as a unifier, we cannot ignore the countless arguments that the entire Torah is full of.  We are a nation carrying 3000 years of Machloket and arguments. Beit Hillel vs. Beit Shamai, Rabbi Shimon vs. Rabbi Yehuda, Rav vs. Shmuel, Abayei vs. Rava, Rambam vs. Ramban – the list goes on.

How could the Torah – being the source for so much dispute – be a unifying force?

The simple answer to this is that the very meaning of unity should be understood.  Unity does not mean uniformity.  The goal is not to hav everyone thinking the same or talking the same.  As Chaza”l say: our opinions are as different as our faces are from one another.

It’s absolutely ok to have different people with different opinions.  Truth be told, it is actually better to have different opinions, as each different view and perspective enriches the rest.

Unity means that all people and all opinions are united, all live in harmony.  Every individual acknowledging that they are a piece in the big puzzle of Am Yisrael.

In Parashat Bamidbar we read about the census.  We see how Bnei Yisrael are “divided” into tribes.  Each tribe different, unique in their own way – they even encamp and travel separately in the wilderness.  But ultimately all Tribes are united around the Mishkan, they all share the same heart.  Every individual realizes they’re part of a bigger whole – the tribe – which is a part of an even bigger whole – Am Yisrael.

As we go into Shavuot, every individual, family or even group will celebrate “separately”.  We have meals in different homes, daven in different Minyanim and attend different Shiurim. Different people will be spending Tikkun Leil Shavuot in different venues, hearing different speakers or learning with different Chavrutot.

But this rich and diverse mosaic of contrast in opinion, age and style, does not take away the unity – on the contrary, it is unity.  We are all united around the Torah we were given 3000 years ago on an epic history changing event.

At the end of the night, those who stay up to daven Vatikin and those who wake up for the later minyan – we all daven to the same HaShem – “as one man with one heart”.

Share this post