The Jewish People — As One Man and Of One Mind
by HaRav Dove Begon, Head of Machon Meir
It says, “Israel camped opposite the mountain” (Exodus 19:2). Rashi explains, “As one man and of one mind, but all their other encampments were made in a spirit of resentment and dissension.” The precondition for Israel’s being ready for the Sinai Revelation was their all being as one man and of one mind, without resentment or dissension.
We can derive a lesson from precise analysis of Rashi’s wording: “As one man.” Every individual has numerous limbs and organs and diverse attributes. Yet they all add up to one person, with each limb and organ and every attribute supplementing what is lacking in the others. It is the same with the Jewish People. Every Jew is different, “for neither in mind or appearance do they resemble one another” (Berachot 58). All the same, we are one people marching up through history to our divine destiny, to serve as a light unto the nations.
Why was it necessary for Rashi to add “and of one mind”? Rashi was hinting that it is not enough that the Jewish people possess one “body,” one national framework. That national framework needs a heart — a human heart — a center in which the whole Jewish People can be united and draw strength. Indeed, from time immemorial the Jewish People have always had one center, one heart. In the Desert, the Mishkan [tabernacle] was that heart, and in the Land, it was the First and Second Temples. They were the source from which the nation drew its psychological and spiritual strength. When we went into exile for two thousand years, the synagogues and study houses constituted a miniature Temple, and from them the nation drew strength to survive the dark exile.
Now, on our return to our land and to Jerusalem our capital, on the way to building the Third Temple — may it be soon in our day — the centrality of the State of Israel for the Jewish People and for all of mankind is being revealed more and more. Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem have become the center of Torah on earth, leading to fulfillment of Isaiah’s words: “For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3).
Right now, despite all of the political struggles, we must remember and imbue in our hearts that when all is said and done, we are one nation — as one man, of one mind — whose purpose is to publicize that the L-rd G-d of Israel is One and His kingdom rules over all.
Restore our judges as of old
When we set out to select the leaders and judges of our nation, we have to learn from Jethro’s advice to Moses regarding who are the people worthy to lead the nation:
“But you must seek out from among all the people capable, G-d fearing men — men of truth, who hate injustice” (Exodus 18:21). It is no simple matter to investigate who possesses such fine traits and characteristics. That is why it says, “And YOU shall seek out” — “You, with your Ruach HaKodesh [divinely inspired intuition]” (Rashi). Only someone with Ruach HaKodesh has the discernment to recognize the nature and traits of human beings.
Men of truth who despise profit are to become the nation’s leaders. If the head is good and healthy, this influences the whole body. It is the same with the nation. Leaders and judges who are moral, wise and have noble spirits benefit the whole people. If they are not, then everyone suffers.
Therefore in our prayers we ask daily: “Restore our judges as of old and our counselors as at the start.” And thereby, “remove moaning and sighing from us.”
In recent times, we bear witness to the crisis visiting part of our leadership, with harsh accusations about lack of ethics being leveled against the judicial system, and the matter is not coincidental. Our sages, in setting out to describe our generation, said, “In the footsteps of the Messiah, impudence will multiply… There will be no rebuke. The truth will disappear… the generation’s countenance will be that of a dog” (Sotah 89). Yet we are believers, the sons of believers. Precisely out of the moral and spiritual crisis, salvation will spring forth. Our “King who loves charity and justice” will fulfill for us His promise: “I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterwards you shall be called ‘The city of righteousness, a faithful city.’ Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and those that return to her with righteousness” (Isaiah 1:25-26).
Longing for salvation.