Rabbi Jake Vidomlanski
Fromer Shaliach in Cleveland (1998-1999)
Currently Ram at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah and Sgan Rosh Moshava IO
Divine Togetherness in Israel
The Holy Rupshitzer (Rav Naphtali Tzvi Horowitz) was fond of telling over an incident from one of his first weeks in “Cheider” that remained with him and shaped him for the duration of his life. When he was a young boy he was somewhat uncontrolled and had difficulty paying attention to his melamed. During the tedious studying of the aleph beit letter by letter the Rupshitzer’s patience gave way and he began to skip around the page. Suddenly focusing on the letter Yud, the Rupshitzer blurted out “Hey what’s this little dot?” The Rebbe calmly responded “Naphtali, that’s not a dot, that is a ‘yid’, and a ‘yid’ is the most important letter in the aleph beis because when you have a ‘yid’ and a ‘yid’ that’s tzvei yidden (literally the letter yud twice, but also means two Jews in Yiddish) and you have the name of Hashem”. Rav Naphtali was enthralled with what the Rebbe taught him and became a big fan of the letter “yid”. After having finished the entire aleph beit, the Rebbe opened up a chumash with the children and asked Naphtali to read the first few psukim. Naphtali read beautifully, but at the end of each pasuk he added in the word ‘Hashem’. The Rebbe could not understand Naphtali’s actions and asked him to explain why he keeps adding the word Hashem to every pasuk. Naphtali responded that two “dots” together (the symbol of a sof pasuk) are the name of Hashem. The Rebbe responded, “Naphtali you misunderstood, only when the two yidden are side by side is there the holy presence of Hashem, however when one tries to climb on top of the other, when there is strife, competition or dissension you will never find Hashem”. A key for having Hashem dwell in our midst is achdut.
In this week’s parasha it emerges that true achdut can only be achieved in Eretz Yisrael. Among the different sin offerings mentioned in parashat Vayikra, the Torah brings down the laws of a “Par He’Alem Davar”. This korban was brought when the majority of the nation transgresses a mitzvah due to an errant ruling by the Sanhedrin. In introducing the circumstance under which this korban was brought the pasuk states “If the entire assembly of Israel shall err, and the matter became obscured from the eyes of the congregation and they commit one from among all the commandments of Hashem that may not be done and they became guilty” (Vayikra 4:13). There seems to be a redundancy in the opening of the pasuk. It would have been sufficient to state “if the entire assembly of Israel shall err,” or alternatively, “the matter became obscured from the eyes of the congregation”. It is uncharacteristic of the Torah to repeat itself.
Chazal (Horiyot 3a) explain that “assembly of Israel” refers to the Sanhedrin, while “congregation” refers to the majority of Jews who inhabit Eretz Yisrael. The gemara goes on to state that only those who inhabit Israel are considered a congregation, while those that are living outside of Israel are deemed a collection of individuals. Upon several occasions I have heard Rav Moshe Tzuriel quote a further manifestation of the same idea. There is a bracha one makes upon seeing six hundred thousand Jews called “Chacham Harazim”. The Rambam (Brachot 10:11) writes that in order to make the bracha, one has to see the 600,000 Jews in Eretz Yisrael. Outside of the borders of Israel the masses do not merge into a tzibur.
In Chutz La’Eretz there can be mass gathering of Jews. These gatherings, such as siyum are undoubtedly nice and inspiring (e.g. siyum hashes), but ultimately from chazal’s perspective, it is Jews congregating yet not a congregation. Only In Ertez Yisrael can we truly come together and unite. Only in Eretz Yisrael can Jews congregating become a congregation. When we are indeed united, when there is true achdut, Hashem resides among us. It is for this reason that only in Eretz Yisrael can we merit to have the divine presence of Hashem dwell in all its splendor and glory.