This Weeks Haftorah
Rabbi Levi Langer

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Haftorah Vayigash

Our haftorah discusses the eventual reunification of the tribes of Israel in time to come, when we will all be one nation once again. Long ago, when ten of the Jewish tribes broke off from the kingdom of Rechavam, son of King Solomon, and formed a separate kingdom under Yerav'am ben Nevat the Ephraimite, the Jews lost their sense of being one indivisible people. The nation of Ephraim under Yerav'am, and the kings who succeeded him, was led further and further astray from the teaching of the Torah, and away from the remaining tribes of Judah and Benjamin, who remained true to the Torah's dictates. Now the prophet Ezekiel is told by Hashem to take two sticks, inscribed respectively "Judah" and "Ephraim," and to hold them together as one in his hand. Miraculously, the sticks actually joined to become one. The miraculous act served to demonstrate to the people that eventually they would be reuninted.

Jewish unity, or achdus, is a theme which is very much on our minds today. And sometimes we find it quite difficult to see how we will ever be able to achieve it. The differences which separate us from those of our brethren who come from backgrounds and cultures other than our own, seem to form an impenetrable barrier to achdus. In our haftorah we are told that it will indeed take a miracle to do it--but that the miracle will be there when we need it. The first step, though, is incumbent upon us--we have to find ways to respect one another in spite of our differences, and indeed to appreciate one another for what he is. Then Hashem will supply the miracle and we will be able to come together in harmony. "And you shall hold them in your hand, one and one, as one stick--and they will become one in your hand."

How will we achieve this achdus? Will we sacrifice some portion of the Torah and mitzvos, in order to accomodate those who choose to reject them? Let us look to our haftorah. "And my servant, David [i.e. his descendent, the Messiah], will be king over them, and one shepherd shall lead them all. They will follow My laws, and My statues they will observe." Achdus for the people of Israel has but one meaning: the unification of all the divergent strains within our people to serve Hashem together. Any other kind of achdus is meaningless, and in fact is not achdus at all, for in the end it will only splinter apart. The glue that can hold us together is the single goal that we will all share: the desire to serve Hashem, each in his own unique manner.

Copyright (c) 1996 by Rabbi Levi Langer

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