Our Brothers the Entire House of Israel

RABBI YISRAEL KANIEL

RABBI YISRAEL KANIEL

Administrator and Rabbinical Advisor of B'Ahavat Yisrael

In the beginning of the Torah section of Bechukotai, we read (Vayikra 26:6), “And I will make peace in the land, you will lie without fear.”  Upon this verse, Rashi comments: “You might say, ‘We have what to eat, and we have what to drink, but if there is no peace, there is nothing.’  Therefore, the Torah adds, ‘And I will make peace in the land.’  From here we see that peace is worth as much as everything else combined.”

The above thought is emphasized further by our Sages (Mishna, Uktzin 3:12): “The Holy One, Blessed is He, found no vessel to contain the blessings for the Jewish people other than peace.”

In regard to the above, the well known rosh yeshiva in Yeshiva Ner Yisrael of Baltimore R. Yissocher Frand notes (Rabbi Frand on the Parasha, pp. 190-191) a comment by R. Avraham Shmuel Binyomin Sofer, known as the Ktav Sofer (1815–1871).  The greatest danger to peace, the Ktav Sofer points out, is jealousy.  Those who see others enjoying things that they feel they should have become consumed with jealousy and begin to resent the others, leading eventually to unpleasantness and reduced peace.  Whatever the jealous individuals have becomes clouded and they concentrate on what they do not have, and, as a result, peace is destroyed.

Additionally, R. Frand relates an intriguing anecdote concerning the great Torah giant R. Yaakov Kamenetsky.  Some six years before his passing, despite feeling quite weak and being very doubtful of his ability to make such a journey, R. Yaakov succumbed to pressure to travel to the Knessiah Gedolah of Agudat Yisrael in Jerusalem.  Being as weak as he was, R. Yaakov could not travel or offer his customary lectures while in Israel.  However, he insisted on visiting and speaking at Yeshiva Kol Yaakov.  As he rose to speak, he began to cry, “All my life I wanted to greet Mashiach [the Messiah].  I now feel that I will not have this merit.  I do not feel I will live much longer.  However, if I cannot greet Mashiach myself, at least I want to be among a group of people that will undoubtedly be among those who greet Mashiach.  I know that this yeshiva will be among those who greet him.”  What is so special about this yeshiva?  It made peace between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, both groups equally represented in its midst.  This yeshiva represented peace.

On Mondays and Thursdays, after reading from the Torah, upon returning the Torah scroll to the Holy Ark in synagogues the world over, the entire congregation recites: “Our brothers, the entire house of Israel, who are delivered into distress and captivity, whether they are on sea or dry land, may the Omnipresent One have mercy on them and remove them from distress to relief, from darkness to light, from subjugation to redemption, now, speedily and soon.”  We speak of our brothers, the entire house of Israel!  We express our caring for the entire Jewish people.  Unfortunately, though, when it comes to practice, we discriminate.  Ill feelings well up among us and our fellow members of the Jewish nation.  Our differences overshadow our thoughts.  Jealousies and grudges overtake us.  And peace suffers.  And the entire Jewish people suffer as a result.

May we concentrate on the common ground that we share with our brethren.  And may we put aside petty differences and jealousies.  And may G-d, in turn, bless us with “peace in the land.”

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