Yahad Ne-natzeiah: Together We Will Win!

My wife, daughter, and I made Israel our home this past summer, during the height of her disunity. Protests, accusations, finger pointing, mistrust, and malediction were the order of the day, peppered with the heated rhetoric of “us” versus “them” that had the potential, God forbid, to lead to a milhemet ahim, civil war. Then came October 7 and the sense of be-yahad, unity, commonality of purpose, and cooperation and respect were palpable. A people that was mefuzar u-meforad, fragmented and divided, united. Yahad nenatze’ah, together we will be victorious, became our mantra, or better read: we will be victorious because we are united.

And now that unity is beginning to crumble. Differing perspectives on important matters such as the way to achieve freedom for the hostages, the execution of the war, and important public policy issues are once again beginning to divide us. Much ink has been spilled in lamenting this old-new state of affairs and in calling for cool heads to prevail.

The holiday of Purim is a celebration of be-yahad. Once a year, for one day, Jews reconnect with each other and recreate feelings of togetherness. This unity is epitomized by mishlo’ah manot ish le-rei’eihu, the gifts of food we send to our neighbors and friends, the purpose of which is to recreate and reinforce bonds of friendship, fraternity, and love—ke’ish ehad be-lev ehad, like one people with one heart. If I were cynical, I might suggest that such unity is possible only on a day of ad de-lo yada, a day on which our differences of opinion and conflicting ideas and ideologies are clouded and muddled by inebriation. Our Concord (grapes) lead to a concord (of fellowship). But the morning after, when we wake to the sobering realities of our lives and the somber state of our circumstances, our disunity reawakens.

But if we wake up the morning after and retreat to our partisan posts, we have failed to fulfill the mitzvah of mishlo’ah manot and we have not learned an essential lesson of Purim. Contrary to everything we’ve ever been taught, the obligation to distribute these gifts of food is not a one-day-a-year requirement.  Rabbi Yehiel Yaakov Weinberg, author of the Responsa Seridei Eish, (I:60) suggests that it is a mitzvah temidit, a constant duty 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The mitzvah is a perpetual duty to cultivate love and friendship with our fellow Jews. This mitzvah gains special attention once a year on Purim, through the gifting of food, to actively remind us of this daily responsibility; the obligation is not limited to the holiday alone.

Despite our many significant differences, we have often come together in times of crisis. When we did not, destruction and exile were our rewards. This necessary unity does not call for a compromise of principle; it calls for commitment to the highest principle of be-yahad. We must strongly advocate for the right as we see it, but to ensure a secure future as a people in our land, we must disagree agreeably. To safeguard our homes and our children, we must listen to each other and understand each other’s perspectives, seeking to understand the values and views that underlie the ideas with which we vehemently disagree. We must engage in dialogue without rancor, debate without venom, and negotiation without acrimony. And we must soberly find ways to resolve our challenges and our differences, together. We have no other people. We have no other land. We have no other choice.

When the threat to the Jews of the Persian empire ended, Esther and Mordechai wrote a letter to their people, a letter of with a message of shalom ve-emet, peace and truth (Esther 9:30). And this was true despite the lack of agreement. Mordechai was ratzui le-rov ehav  (10:3), accepted and respected by only a majority, but not by all, of his brethren.  Both truth and peace, inextricably bound together, defined the celebration of Purim for all future generations; they were revealed as the secret of Jewish victory, prosperity, and posterity. Not just one day a year, but 365 days a year, 24/7. Yahad nenatze’ah, we will be victorious because we are united!

About the Author
Rabbi Mark Dratch was the executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America from 1993-2024 and founder of JSafe (The Jewish Institute Supporting an Abuse-Free Environment). He made aliyah with Nefesh B’Nefesh in July 2023.
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