So, the challenge is now here. The real challenge.

Throughout the last month, the Jewish Nation has been united in a way that we haven’t seen in generations. Why? Because of tragedy.

First, it was the news of three boys. Innocent boys trying to get home, kidnapped and murdered within minutes. Since the Jewish Nation was unaware of their deaths, we banded together, praying, doing more and more mitzvoth, being more kind to each other, giving food and supplies to the soldiers charged with the important task of finding “our boys.” All in the hopes that we could help bring them home.

Yes, they became “our boys,” no longer just someone waiting for a ride home, they became all of our sons and brothers. We longed for their safe return. We were right there with their parents, whether we were in Israel, NY, California or London. They were on our collective minds the entire time.

Then we were left utterly shattered, when we found out that they were gone.

The Jewish Nation mourned. For the week of shivah in Israel, it was almost like the entire country was in aveilus. All together. We mourned the loss of “our boys.” For whatever reason, they crossed over all the barricades that usually keep us from being One Nation. Whether you were a Chassidishe mother in Meah Shearim, a grandmother in Tel Aviv, a kippah srugah wearer from Chevron. Their story touched us all. The pain of the families was our pain.

So, we passed the test, right? We all hoped that at this moment of tragedy, Moshiach would come. Surely, surely, Hashem would see our achdus, and bring us the final redemption. Surely the tears that flowed would certainly fill whatever cup of tears needed to overflow to bring our salvation.

But, no. He didn’t come.

Then, came the war. Another opportunity from Hashem to show Him our unity. As our soldiers went into Gaza to fight our current biggest enemy, we came together. We again did what we do best. We prayed, we took on more mitzvoth, being more kind to each other, giving food and support to the soldiers, since they were now “our boys.”

Every morning I found myself reading the news. Looking at the names of the injured and the dead. Finding out where they came from. Feeling like I was experiencing their death on such a personal level, feeling the pain of our nation as we suffered more and more losses.

Our former barriers to our unity stayed down. We continued together, we continued to see these boys, all of them, as “ours.” By extension, their family became our family. I went to sleep every night davening for their safety, with a quick victory, and peace. And, I waited for the coming of Moshiach.

As Tisha B’Av approached, our nation held their collective breath. Surely, this would be the year. Surely, Hashem would see the pain that has been afflicted upon us. Surely, He would see our achdut. Surely, we had passed the test.

But, as the sun faded on Tisha B’Av afternoon (in Israel), and, that great shofar didn’t sound, I realized something. The test is now.

As of this writing, the escalation in Gaza seems to be winding down (may it end forever!). But our obligation to be a united nation is still with us. The test is for us to remember how we came together, remember the love and caring that we showed for each other. The real passing of the test is to know we don’t need rockets shooting at us, to stand united.

And, that while our physical challenges hopefully have past, it is our spiritual and emotional ones that live on. Remember to love each other, regardless if they are like us or not. In the desert, there were 12 shvatim. They didn’t live together. But, they still cared about each other. There was still achdus. Our mitzvah isn’t to be like each other. Our mitzvah is like each other.

Here is our true challenge. Now, we are facing the real test. Let’s pass.