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Chaim Y. Botwinick

Our Continued Quest for Achdut

“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in Unity”  (Tehillim, 133)

“I truly believe that the security of our future, as a People and as a Nation relies on the strength we possess when United” (Former IDF Chief of Staff,  Beni Gantz)

“I don’t need you to agree with me, I need you to care about me”  (Rabbi Jonathan Sacks)

Achdut (Jewish Unity) is a fundamental principle in Judaism. To be sure, we continuously pray for it, most of our Jewish community’s problems throughout history are due in part to a lack of it, and when we do in fact experience true Achdut, we consider it to be a true blessing.

Achdut, does not mean that we all think exactly the same, look the same, or agree about everything. That expectation is virtually impossible and is totally unrealistic. Achdut therefore means that in spite of the fact that we may look, think and behave differently, we nevertheless behave and act as if we are one big family under one tent – especially during times of  threat and crisis..

In one of my recent Times of Israel blogs (October 24, 2023) entitled ,“Achdut: An Undeniable Challenge in the Face of Existential Reality” I examined the nature and scope of Achdut in light of the current  war in Israel.

In that blog, I posited that the Achdut phenomenon may be characterized as a chicken/egg reality. In other wards, it begs the question – does our Jewish community exhibit Achdut in response to a threat or crisis, or does true Achdut prevent these crises and threats from actually occurring in the first place? There are even those who suggest that historically, the lack of Achdut inspires and creates bad tidings for bnai yisrael – not unlike the destruction of the first and second  Batei Mikdash.

To respond to this question with any degree of certainty, it is evident that when our Jewish community stands united together in solidarity, we have a far better opportunity at succeeding in our goals then if we were totally on opposite sides of the spectrum.

Since October 7th, Jewish communities in the diaspora and in Israel  have experienced an impressive increase in chesed and achdut  projects and programs.

Hundreds of  inspiring articles, social media posts and meaningful divrei torah  have been devoted to describing and celebrating  the wide variety chesed   and achdut initiatives now taking place in our communities…all of which are unsurpassed in recent memory. In fact, hardly a day passes by without hearing about these incredible acts of achdut bnai yisrael and its remarkable impact on the quality of Jewish life in Israel and in the diaspora.

The achdut  narrative which is demonstrated in our Jewish communities on the global level since October 7th,  may be a direct result of our existential disposition which binds all of us together, irrespective of  our religiosity, family background or education.. It is a reflection of our ability and capacity to assist each other through thick or thin; and it is a legacy which is anchored in our DNA, common destiny and an unwavering and unswerving ability to be present for one another.

Unfortunately, this solidarity and unity of acheinu bnai yisrael  ebbs and flows and is now slowly fraying at the seams, right before our eyes. To be sure,  the winds of internal and domestic acrimony are now beginning to blow strong and unabated.

It is terrible enough that our brothers and sisters are sacrificing their precious lives by fighting existential wars on two fronts. But now we are also witnessing  thousands of families suffering terribly and ,barely coping with the traumatic impact and aftermath of October 7th.

The hundreds of painful funerals we have witnessed and experienced since the beginning of the war with Hamas, the estimated 27,000  plus families now displaced from their homes on the borders near Gaza and Lebanon; and the growing number of orphans and widows who will never again enjoy the warm hugs and kisses from their spouses, parents and loved-ones  are beyond painful and  heartbreaking.

Over the past several weeks, we have seen a frightful uptick in violent anti-Israel government rallies and demonstrations in the streets of Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim;  an actual car ramming by a Jew into a crowd if Israeli demonstrators; as well as protesters demanding that more decisive action be taken by the Israeli  government in order  help force the release of hostages being held captivate in Gaza for the past almost six months. .

These levels of  domestic Israeli unrest are in addition to the mounting violent rallies and  demonstrations aggressively pushing back on the Israeli government’s recent proposal to induct Yeshiva students into the IDF……using  funding to their day school as leverage.

All of these challenging events, as difficult as they are, make the prospect for continued Achdut  and solidarity an almost impossible or unimaginable outcome, hope or dream.

Not unlike other people and communities around the world  Am Yisrael, are not perfect. We never were. Nor are we super-human. Yes, we are all created b’zelem elokim  (in  the image of HaShem).  To be sure, the tremendous levels of psychological and emotional stress, as well as the deep trauma and anxiety caused by the war in Gaza  and the October 7th massacre all combined have a cumulative negative impact on our people with potentially dire consequences and outcomes.

As we try desperately to wrap our heads around these inconsistent disturbing  fluctuations in achdut bnai yisrael, we need to ask ourselves the question…what is it about our Jewish people and our Jewish condition that prevents continued, unencumbered or interrupted Achdut?

Truth be told, if we knew the answer to this question we would have been worthy of redemption (geula) centuries ago.

Friends, let us remember that  B’nai Yisrael first became a nation while enslaved in mitzayim. When we left mitzayim to sojourn to Eretz Yisroel we were confronted  with enormous challenges – from fleeing the Egyptians, to receiving and accepting our Torah at the base of Har Sinai. From crossing the red sea, to being able to merit the opportunity  to enter  Eretz Yisrael. Each of these challenges were accompanied by miracles, which according to many commentators, was encouraged and inspired by our emunah and bitachon in HaShem, leading to  Achdut.

As we know, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Every member of our Jewish community must contribute to Achdut. To be sure, I as a member of the Jewish community cant truly be unified with you, unless you are also unified with me. Achdut therefore depends upon both of us! We are partners in this process.

The Rambam, (Maimonides)  in Moreh HaNevuchim (2:40)  says that although diversity applies to all life forms, it applies more to humans than any other. ….to which one must surely add: and among Jews more than most.. Therefore diversity is a sign of strength not weakness. Remember, we can in fact exhibit Achdut without compromising our individuality and diversity.

In the ideal world, the issues, concerns and challenges which divide us can sometimes  overwhelm the goodness and holiness of Achdut. Our challenge must be to find good and positivity in order to overcome these levels of conflict and adversity.

All that we experience as a Am Yisrael, whether it be positive or negative, is orchestrated  B’yad HaShem (through the hand of Gd).

This past Saturday night, our Jewish people experienced a series of true miracles which are unsurpassed in history.

The fact that Israel was attacked by Iran with hundreds of rockets, missiles and drones and 99% were either intercepted or fell short of their intended target. is nothing short of a true nais. These miracles should unify us as a Jewish community and as a Jewish nation. It should provide all of us with strength, a sense of common destiny and solidarity between ourselves and between ourselves and HaShem.

One of the most difficult challenges we face as a Jewish community will always be the need to overcome and set aside our differences and to focus our thoughts, energies and resources on working together in order to build community, solidarity and respect for one another.

At the end of the day, polarization that leads to disunity will never inspire, encourage or  enable our Jewish community to respond effectively to crises. Solidarity and achdut must serve as the foundation upon which to build a strong and vibrant Jewish community.

As we approach Chag Pesach, may HaShem bless our chayalim and chayalot with excellent health and safety; may he advance the safe release of  all the hostages being held captive by Hamas; may he continue to protect Acheinu B’nai Yisrael; and may he ease the pain, anguish and suffering of the thousands of families who have lost mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands and wives daughters and sons.

Finally, may our continued pursuit of Achdut serve as a bracha (blessing) for our people and may we all merit the opportunity and honor  to witness continued miracles as we await eagerly for our geula.

With warm wishes for a Chag Kasher v’Sameach.

B’sorot Tovot

About the Author
Dr. Chaim Botwinick is a senior executive coach and an organizational consultant . He served as president and CEO of the central agency for Jewish education in Baltimore and in Miami; in addition to head of school and principal for several Jewish day schools and yeshivot. He has published and lectured extensively on topics relating to education, resource development, strategic planing and leadership development. Dr. Botwinick is Author of “Think Excellence: Harnessing Your Power to Succeed Beyond Greatness”, Brown Books, 2011
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