The Year of Unity

Parshat Haazinu (Dvarim 22:15) is the first time in the Tanach that we hear the word Yeshurun: “Vayishman Yeshurun vayivat”, “Yeshurun became fat and kicked.”

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) explains that the word “Yeshurun” which refers to B’nei Yisrael (the Jewish people) comes from the root “Yashar”, straight, just, upright. It does not deviate from the high standards demanded by God. However, when B’nei Yisrael arrived in the Land of Israel and enjoyed prosperity they had a downfall.

We also see Yeshurun mentioned twice in V’Zot HaBracha which will be read on Simchat Torah. Dvarim 33:5: “Vayehi V’Yeshurun Melech…”, “He became King over Yeshurun when the numbers of the nation gathered- the tribes of Israel in unity.” Dvarim 33:26: “Ein K’E-l Yeshurun, “There is none like God, O Yeshurun; He rides across heaven to help you and His majesty through the upper heights.”

Yeshurun is mentioned as well in Yishayahu 44:2: “…Al tira avdi Yaakov v’Yeshurun bacharti vo”, “Fear not my servant Yaakov and Yeshurun whom I have chosen.”

In the liturgy for Yom Kippur we find “For you are the Forgiver of Israel and the Pardoner of the tribes of Yeshurun in every generation…”

We see from here that even those who are normally straight laced still have the capability to sin.

According to the Rashbam (1085-1174) one of the reasons for the holiday of Sukkot is to remind us that everything comes from God. God protected us in the desert for 40 years and then he brought us to the Land of Israel. In the fall, when we harvest our produce, it is the time to recognize that it is not the farmer alone who grew this produce. Without God’s help there would be no produce. During the harvest, while our homes are full of prosperity it is the time to go outside and live in a hut to remind ourselves that God is still taking care of us the way that He did when we were in the wilderness.

We also see that God becomes King over us when the tribes of Israel unite together. This is an opportunity to reflect on how we can work on uniting the Jewish people especially as this Sukkot falls immediately after the conclusion of the Shmita (Sabbatial) year and the Hakhel (Unity) ceremony is performed.

Although the Hakhel ceremony is only required when all of the Jews reside in the Land of Israel, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson encouraged the Jews to work on promoting unity during that year.

In Israel, the Hakhel ceremony has been revived. The first official ceremony took place in 1945 with a special service at the Yeshurun synagogue (is that a coincidence?) followed by a procession to the Kotel (Western Wall) where the Torah was read.

This year there will be a special Hakhel ceremony at the Kotel with the Chief Rabbis and President of Israel.

May we merit the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash (Temple), the return of a united Jewish people to the Land of Israel and the observance of the Biblical Hakhel ceremony speedily in our days.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
Related Topics
Related Posts