Unity of Israel Within Eretz Yisrael
וַיַּקְהֵ֣ל מֹשֶׁ֗ה אֶֽת־כָּל־עֲדַ֛ת בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֑ם אֵ֚לֶּה הַדְּבָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֥ה יְקֹוָ֖ק לַעֲשֹׂ֥ת אֹתָֽם:
Moses assembled the entire Israelite community and said to them, “These are the things that the Lord has commanded you to do…”
[Shemot (Exodus) 35:1]
ועל צד הרמז נאמר שהקהל זה היה לתווך השלום ביניהם, כי אין אדם דר עם נחש בכפיפה אחת, ואחר שרצה להודיעם מעשה המשכן שיהיו כולם שותפים בו דומה כאילו הושיב את כולם במדור אחד, ועל כן הוצרך להקהילם תחילה שיהיו באגודה אחת.
This hints that this assembly was in order to mediate peace among the Israelites, “Since no one could live with a serpent in the same basket” [Babylonian Talmud, Ketubot 72a], and since Moses wished to inform the Israelites of the construction of the Tabernacle, in which they will all be partners, it was necessary for him to assemble all the Israelites as a united group.
The Unifying Force of Eretz Yisrael
The middle blessing of the amida of Minḥa on Shabbat commences: “You are One, Your name is One; and who is like Your people Israel, one nation in earth (ba’aretz)?” The blessing is based upon a verse in Shmuel Beit (Second Shmuel): “And who is like Your people, like Israel, one nation in the world” [7:23]. Zohar reads the final word “ba’aretz” as “The Land” and expounds:
Certainly, Am Yisrael is a single nation when they are within the Land, and together with her they are called “One,” but not when they are separate; for it would have sufficed for the verse to state “Who is like Your nation Israel, one nation.” The addition of the word “ba’aretz” teaches that Israel is considered one nation only when they are in the Land.
[זוהר (אמור, דף צג, ב)]
That is, only when Am Yisrael is within Eretz Yisrael does the nation have the true power of unity. We find that the same is true of Jerusalem, as Chazal (our Sages) elucidated the posuk (verse) “Jerusalem built-up is like a city that is united together” [Tehillim (Psalms) 122:3] – “Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi says: ‘Jerusalem unites all Israelites to each other in friendship.’” [Jerusalem Talmud, Bava Kama 7:7]
Through its spiritual qualities, Eretz Yisrael affects a particular level of Israelite unity, while there is a higher level of true connection which derives from the sanctity of Jerusalem.
What is this power within the Land and its capital which connects and unites Israel?
First Answer – Am Yisrael (the Nation of Israel) Unites to Prevent Slighting the Honor of the Land or of Jerusalem
Divisiveness and quarrels can be extremely destructive, causing chasms which cannot be bridged. An argument which engenders mutual hatred and opposition is harmful and can prevent the parties from cooperating and reaching achievements which could be had and even destroying what had already been achieved.
In his work Netivot Shalom, Maharal of Prague dealt at length with the negative effects of dissension, quoting Midrash Bemidbar Rabba [16:27], which states:
How severe is dissension, for the heavenly court assesses fines only from age twenty and an earthly court from age thirteen, yet in the dissension of Koracḥ even day-old infants were burnt and swallowed up by the earth, as the Torah says: “And their wives, their children, and their infants …” [Bamidbar (Numbers) 16:27] “They, and all they possessed, descended alive into the grave; the earth covered them up, and they were lost to the assembly.”
Maharal also cites a Midrashic comment from Breishit Rabba [4:6]:
Why does the verse not say of the second day of creation that God’s work “was good” (as stated in connection with all the remaining days of creation)? Rabbi Chanina said it is because divergence (literally “argument” or “dispute”) was created on that day, as the verse states “And let it divide the waters from the waters.” [Bereishit (Genesis) 1:6] Rabbi Tavyumi said: “If division which improves the world, allowing it to be settled cannot be called ‘good,’ all the more so division which disturbs the (equilibrium of the) world.”
Having noted the difficulties generated by dispute, we can understand the connection between unity and Eretz Yisrael. Am Yisrael feels the sanctity of the Land and of Jerusalem and thus knows that it must make every effort to unite within the Land in order to prevent harming Eretz Yisrael. Anything which is exposed to the destructive sword of dissension can be harmed by it. Even settlement within Eretz Yisrael can be weakened, God forbid, if there are voices which call for abandoning parts of her. Am Yisrael’s desire to achieve internal unity prevents such divisive voices.
Not all things are lofty goals which require Am Yisrael’s unity to protect them. Eretz Yisrael in general and Jerusalem in particular do reach this high level of recognition of their value to the community of Israel. This recognition unites the community in order to protect the Land and its capital. This recognition has not yet reached the level of intellectual understanding and remains primarily spiritual recognition; however, our souls strongly feel our connection to Eretz Yisrael and her sanctity. The unity of the nation and protecting the Land do not always come to complete realization, nonetheless, they are found deep in our hearts. In truth, Am Yisrael in its entirety wants the Land to be built up, and it is only outside influences which hide the nation’s desire to unite and to protect the sanctity of our holy Land.
Second Answer – All Holy Things Foster Fusion Between Opposites
God is unitary, but He created a world of diversity and multiplicity. The kabbalists speak of the transition between unity and multiplicity. How was the world created? How is it possible to maintain the connection with the unitary Creator in the diverse world He created? God maintains the entire cosmos, and aspects of creation which are opposed to each other are His creations, and He connects them. Thus, we read, “There shall be one law and one ordinance for you” [Bamidbar (Numbers) 15:16]; the Torah is one and unitary in everything contained within it. King David said “the judgments of the Lord are true, altogether just” [Tehillim 19:10], meaning that even things which appear contradictory are joined together by Torah, thus becoming true and just.
In this manner we find that despite its diversity, the entire Nation of Israel was united before accepting Torah at Mount Sinai, as the verse states "ויחן שם ישראל נגד ההר" (“And Israel (singular) encamped there opposite the mountain …”) [Shemot (Exodus) 19:2], which Chazal elucidate "כאיש אחד בלב אחד" (“As a single person, with a single heart”) [Rashi, ibid.]. It is Torah which unites Israel and the entire world.
Essentially, everything in the world has an opposite which completes it, as Chazal taught: “There is no man who does not have his hour, and no thing that has not its place” [Avot 4:3]; that is, even things which seem to us to be completely negative serve a useful purpose in God’s creation. Rabbi Kook writes that denial of God’s existence at times results from the fact that faith in God has been presented improperly, resulting in diminishing the truth and causing harm. It is necessary to distinguish between those who deny God’s existence and the positive things which they attempt to achieve. Many of the secular Zionists in Rabbi Kook’s time rejected Torah because they failed to understand that it calls for national unity within Eretz Yisrael and for developing the Land.
The greater the sanctity of something, the closer it is to God, Who is unitary, and the greater the unity among apparently contradictory things. The Temple and Eretz Yisrael possess high levels of sanctity, and therefore everything connected to them must be unitary, as a result of their contact with sanctity. Uniting opposites is difficult work, but can be achieved with the great forces of sanctity of Eretz Yisrael.
We presented two explanations of the connection between Eretz Yisrael and Israel’s national unity:
1) Realizing the value of Eretz Yisrael, the Nation of Israel feels the need to unite in order to protect the Land.
2) Eretz Yisrael itself unites opposites, as all holy things bridge the gap between the extremes of contradictory things.
These explanations allow us to understand the force of unity inherent with Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem.
Participation of Divergent Groups in the Establishment of the State
The establishment of the State of Israel was an emotional time throughout all parts of Am Yisrael. Rabbi Chayim Steiner relates that rabbis from the entire spectrum recited the blessing of joy, “Sheheḥiyanu,” when the State came into existence, and throughout Israel streets were filled with people dancing in joy and appreciation of God’s goodness to His nation.
Rabbi Yehoshua of Kutna (1821-93) relates how he saw the impending realization of the desire to ascend to the Land and build her up, as he writes:
"...ובפרט עתה, שראינו התשוקה הגדולה, הן אנשים פחותי ערך, הן בינונים, הן בישרים בליבותם- קרוב לוודאי שנתנוצץ רוח הגאולה"
Especially now, that we see the great desire, of simple people, of those whose level is intermediate and those who are of upright hearts (to ascend to the Land), it is a virtual certainty that the spirit of redemption has begun to shine.
Similarly, we have heard the Rosh Yeshiva of Mercaz haRav, Rabbi Ya’akov Shapira and others relate how excited Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook was when he spoke on Yom haAtzmaut 5727 (1967) of the anticipation and hope to soon return to united Jerusalem and Eretz Yisrael almost in its entirety. The hearts of the general public were filled with anticipation of Jerusalem’s redemption, based on the words of Naomi Shemer’s song “Jerusalem of Gold.”
With God’s help may we merit true heartfelt unity, arising from the realization of the Land’s sanctity and may we be privileged to see the Land and Ariel (a poetic name of Jerusalem [Isaiah 29:1] built up, speedily in our days. Amen.
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