by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – August 6, 2010
In the Torah portion of Re’eh, we read, “You are children to the L-rd your G-d, you shall not cut yourselves” (Devarim 14:1). Our Sages teach us (Babylonian Talmud, Yevamot 13b-14a) that this verse also instructs us not to “cut” or break up our community into different groups. But this prohibition does not apply to different groups in general, but only to different and differing groups who do not behave in harmony with each other.
To bring across the above point more, in his commentary to this verse, R. Yisrael Meir Kagan, known as the Chafetz Chaim, tells of a story in which someone asked him about the split between Chasidim and non-Chasidim and the fact that Chasidim themselves are split into different sects. Some stress more Torah study while others stress more prayer and the like. Why, asked the man, can there not be just one group of Jews, all of whom would pray the same way and behave in the same way?
To this question, the Chafetz Chaim responded that, rather than asking him about our people, the individual should have asked the Russian emperor about his army. Why does he need so many types of soldiers – ground troops on foot, troops on horses, troops operating cannons, air force and navy? Why does not the individual ask the emperor why there can not be just one group of soldiers with one type of ammunition with one commander leading them?
The Chafetz Chaim goes on to answer this hypothetical question to the emperor, as well as the original question posed. Going out to war to defeat the enemy necessitates various different methods, each of which has different advantages to the other. Similarly, in the battle that our Jewish nation – “children to the L-rd” – wages to further the ideals of our Father in Heaven, all the different groups of Jews, whatever group of Chasidim they may belong to or whether they are not Chasidim, all are part of G-d’s army together each in his own way waging the war for G-d’s principles. Each one in his own way, whether by stressing Torah study or by stressing prayer or by engaging in song, plays a part in winning this battle, as long as each plays his part in harmony with the other groups.
Although many of our fellow brethren may be different than we are and we may have different approaches to the way we exercise our obligations to G-d, this should not translate into strife and conflict. Doing so only serves to go against G-d’s own wishes as prescribed in the aforementioned verse. It takes all kinds to make a world. And it takes all kinds to make a Jewish people. As long as we are in harmony, we can succeed in all of our endeavors. Without harmony, we cannot.