Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Adar 5762 - February 20, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Dispersed and Separated Among the Nations

by Mordecai Plaut

Rovo said: There is no one who knew loshon hora as well as Homon. Loshon hora always refers to telling the truth, albeit in a destructive way. So Homon, in his arguments to Achashverosh about destroying all the Jews, was telling the truth about us.

What did he say? Yeshno am echod mefuzor umeforod bein ho'amim (Esther 3:8). There is a people who should be one, who should be united, but instead they are dispersed and separated among the nations.

Some people said that chas vesholom the Torah keeps us apart. Let us have something else to bring us together. Perhaps there were some who felt sincerely that something else could do it.

Nothing has worked. Enthusiasm for the State of Israel lasted for about 40 years, but it no longer excited many Jews on its own -- certainly not those living in chutz la'aretz who never even visit and have no interest in doing so, and increasingly not even many of the Jews in Eretz Yisroel itself. Freeing Soviet Jewry? Remembering the Holocaust? These are powerful ideas but they obsolete themselves and have only a limited life span.

It used to be that the basic idea of being a Jew was unifying. At one time, not so long ago, there was a feeling of a common destiny and kinship among all Jews. There was a sense that, however elusive, it is possible to achieve a consensus on important issues and, more importantly, there was an acknowledgement that consensus was vital.

Now, under the overwhelming centrifugal forces of assimilation and a withering assault from within by those who delegitimize important parts of the Jewish people, many no longer even strive for consensus. To cite only one prominent example, the Israeli courts say that it is their duty to impose their "enlightened" values upon everyone else. They do not seek consensus but triumph, and they are forced into compromise only by the press of circumstances.

It is only through and from our precious Torah that we can even hope to achieve unity. It has stood the test of time, and still stands as vital and fresh as it was in Shushan almost 2,500 years ago. It is the only thing that has the potential to unite us, and it can bring us together, even those who do not observe it.

The divisions today are very great among us, and there can be no doubt that many ideologies that have Jewish adherents are unequivocally illegitimate from a Jewish-Torah point of view. But here comes the key distinction between the Jew and his ideology: the person always retains his or her essential personal Jewish identity -- the pintele Yid -- even if the ideology is beyond the pale. Though this rules out anything like a meeting of minds between equals in an ideological sense, it does not foreclose the ability to relate to ideological opponents personally with respect. The subtlety and complexity of most moral stands taken by the Torah in the modern world, and the intense and constant study of these issues in mussar, foster an ability to appreciate many different ideologies.

The greatest effort for unity must undoubtedly be focused on our own immediate neighborhood. First and far foremost is the importance of unity among the chareidim ledvar Hashem, and there is work to be done in this area, deepening and broadening the bonds. On that basis we can hope for a more encompassing unity with other groups as well, without compromising the Torah and according to the directives of gedolei Yisroel.

The serious threats and general darkness that are all around certainly recall the period described by most of the Megilloh. We may also hope and pray that in the zchus of the mitzvos of Purim we be zoche to a similar orah, vesimchah, vesosson vikor.

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