Unity born of love and faith

Although Sunday was a wonderful one for me on a personal level, I was heartbroken as I looked at my Facebook feed throughout the day. There were a plethora of comments about the Prayer Asifa in Lower Manhattan, and a lot of harsh back and forth between those who approved (admittedly, among my friends this was the minority), and those who opposed it. It is not hyperbole to suggest that there is a philosophical civil war going on within Orthodox. Judaism.

I have to admit that it’s tempting to throw in the towel and see any possibility of unity between these two groups as an unrealistic pipe-dream. The odds of any sort of reconciliation seem impossibly high. Perhaps it is time to recognize that we have become two different people R”L.

Any possibility of giving up becomes impossible when I think of Ahava Emunah Lange, who is fighting a strong battle against cancer. Although I only know her virtually, I have been inspired by her refusal to let this battle break her, as well as by her call for unity among our fractured people.

The way I see it, there are two potential pitfalls when one tries and create unity among those who have serious ideological differences. One is the possibility of being unrealistic. If unity is to occur, it will happen slowly, with small steps that might seem insignificant. It can not, and it will not happen in one full swoop. The second challenge is to make unity tangible and not just theoretical. It is one thing to talk about Ahavat Chinam. It is entirely something else to live it. After all, to paraphrase my father OB”M, calls for unity are made to those who are fighting, not to those who are close friends. Achdut involves coming together despite our disparate views, not pretending that do not exist.

Fortunately, Purim affords us with just such an opportunity. Although most people send Mishloach Manot to friends, the mitzvah is actually designed to create unity. Rav Shlomo HaLevi Alkabetz, the author of Lecha Dodi, explains that we send gifts of food to create feelings of camaraderie and friendship. This would be an auspicious time for each of us to try and send mishloach manot to at least one person to whom we are not close. It might be relative or friend with whom we have not spoken in way too long. Alternatively, it can be a neighbor whose view on Israel, the army, kollel etc. is completely the polar opposite of our own. Perhaps we could take it one step further and invite someone who is not part of our close circle of friends, to our seudah (this also fulfills the mitzvah of mishloach manot). Another idea would be to refrain from sharing and/or writing articles, pictures and the like which attack the “other” side. Maybe even share things that promote unity.

As we approach the holiday of “lech k’nos et KOL hayehudim”, let’s not just say it, lets live it. If we truly have emuna that we are one people with one heart, let us try and open our collective heart with love. May all steps we take be a zechut for a refuah sheleima for Ahava Emunah bat Chava Ehta.

Ahava Emunah will be starting another round of chemotherapy soon. To let her know that she is in your heart and mind, please daven, read her blog and comment, and use the tag #achdutbahavavemunah when sharing articles and other things which promote achdut.

About the Author
Pesach Sommer is an Orthodox Rabbi, fundraiser, educator and runner. He is married and has eight children. He currently works for Just One Life, where he directs special projects including their charity running program Team Just One Life. Pesach is 42 years young.