Rabbi Israel Becker
DID WE GET THE MESSAGE?
In the days following the Pittsburgh tragedy, wherever I went in Tucson people, seeing the Yarmulke on my head, came over to offer words of condolence and express friendship and support.
Although I personally was never in Pittsburgh, and this tragedy occurred thousands of miles away from Tucson, the heartfelt expressions that I received indicated clearly that in the minds of our non-Jewish neighbors, we as Jews are looked upon as one single unit.
Throughout history, it actually has been the nations of the world who have repeatedly reminded us that we are one because when push comes to shove, we unite. When the curtain opens prior to the Chanukah miracles of 165 BCE, we see a divided Jewish nation. While our devout brethren remained courageously true to our traditions, a large percentage of others had adapted Greek lifestyles, forsaking that which had been sacred to us. This schism permeated within our ranks until the Greeks cast upon us one stifling decree after another, making all Jewish observance punishable by death. We then became unified and with nothing short of miraculous divine assistance, vanquished our oppressors.
The aftermath of Pittsburgh reminds us that it historically has been the world around us that brings us together. Whether through kind expressions of love or painful demonstrations of animosity we are reminded externally of our internal connection.
The ramifications of this idea bring to life vital realities that impact how we Jews act and how we think of ourselves. External reminders of our unity might well be transferred into inspiration and impetus for us to assist one another both materially and spiritually.
If one of us should act in a manner that displays poor character or behavior, it does not reflect merely on that one person but on all Jews.
Regarding our love for one another, may I suggest a self-examination:
1. Ask yourself, do you love the Jewish people? If you respond yes, go on to the next question.
2. Are there any Jews who you don't love? If the answer is yes, then ask yourself another question.
3. Does loving the Jewish people mean loving the Jewish nation as a whole, or does it mean loving each individual Jew?
For the correct answer, please refer to one of the most famous verses in the Torah, Leviticus 19:18 Love your fellow as yourself. This teaches that you cannot profess love for the Jewish people and at the same time bear animosity toward a fellow Jew.
May Hashem help us as we strive to recognize our oneness and live accordingly without external reminders.