By Zippora Feld
Translated from the Preface to Achim Acharim, / The Other Brothers,
A Hebrew Work by Yair Davidiy
The history of our Israelite nation goes back through the last 3817 years. Since our forefather Abraham was the first to discover that the world has a Creator, and that for all things there is a cause and reason, till our own times our nation has gone through many fateful events the experiences of which shaped her character.
Among the early events were the blessings of Jacob given to each one of his twelve sons, slavery in Egypt, splitting of the Red Sea, deliverance from bondage with great wonders and material spoils, the miracles in the wilderness, and victories over powerful enemies. Greater than all these events, was the receiving of the Torah, which not only changed us to a chosen nation, but also in equal measure committed us to keeping the Torah’s instructions and laws for living. Later developments entailed entering into the Land of Israel, the Period of the Judges, sundry wars, and alternately doing the will of the Almighty and at times being in rebellion against Him. The building of the first Temple was followed by national fragmentation and corruption and we were exiled as a result. After the rebuilding of the Sanctuary we repeated this pattern till we merited a greater, longer and more painful exile.
Out of all this ever-changing course of turbulent events and extraordinary developments, there grew and developed the Jewish People of Israel, who began to consolidate themselves a unique character with its own peculiarities. They became a people who tried at times to be assimilated and to change into a nation "like all other nations. "However, they never succeeded in this and never will do so, for it had been predicted, "THE PEOPLE SHALL DWELL ALONE, AND SHALL NOT BE RECKONED AMONG THE NATIONS" (Numbers 23:9).
That prophesied governance at our beginning accompanied us throughout our history. In every period, in times of prosperity and especially in periods of darkness we were always insulated from and not connected to others, for we were "THE PEOPLE [WHO] SHALL DWELL ALONE.” When we look again to the time when Jacob blessed his sons, we see each one receiving a different blessing. Some say these were words of counseling advice, specifically unique to each, according to their individual propensities (Midrash Tanchuma, Genesis 44:18). The Midrash also clearly delineates to Judah and Joseph the diverse prophesied formidable powers each one was to have. Jacob’s blessings also included his last wish, that there be unity amongst the Tribes when he told them "GATHER YOURSELVES TOGETHER" (Genesis 49:1).Jacob wished that his descendants be united and work together undividedly. It is almost impossible to imagine the potential power of these wonderful abilities if we were working toward a common goal through unified efforts our father Jacob wants us to realize.
An example of this potential is described in a Midrash that tells how the brothers of Joseph reacted in face of the refusal of the King of Egypt to release their brother. They were prepared to fight for him, utilizing a newly found spirit of unity. This united effort empowered them with a force of supernatural potential that could have resulted in the destruction of the country of Egypt. Though this Midrash is not necessarily relating historical fact, it is a teaching to illustrate a deeper truth.
The formidable potential that arises from unity of the combined action of all the Israelite tribes, may be seen throughout our history. It was evident among Israelites from the conquest of the land of Canaan in the time of Joshua son of Nun, to the Israeli War of Independence in 1948, and resultant conflicts (1967, etc.), that were successfully fought for the sake of establishing and ensuring the survival of the State of Israel.
We also experienced the opposite effect, when the Tribes ignored the principle of reciprocity and their need for mutual help and became divided. Consequently adverse forces caused chaos, destruction and desolation prevailed. Much to our regret, examples of this latter situation are not lacking and were often prevalent in the course of our development. Precisely as a result of this negative energy, the Second Temple was destroyed as described in the Talmud. The Bible tells us also of terrible fraternal strife, e.g. the war of the other tribes against the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 19 - 20).This came about because they had not tried hard enough to walk in the way of the Almighty. They had not been receptive towards those who were not "one of their own, like themselves.”
In our own days we can clearly see how terrible are the fruits of disunity. The long lasting terror of the Palestinians against the Jews is a horrific situation, in which our people are mocked, disgraced and humiliated at the hands of those who murder them and their children. Sadly, this state of anarchy and debasement is the result of confusion and lack of knowledge about our role and goal as the chosen nation. Currently there is a growing hatred among different factions of the Jewish people. On one side we have those who acknowledge the Torah of God and keep His commandments. They know to whom this country of milk and honey rightfully belongs, and what must be done to purify it of the Arab foreigners who are intruders in it. On the other side are those who do not attempt to go on the right path, but try to impose their own opinion on all others and insist on handling matters only according to their own notions. Because of this lack of unity we needlessly limit and diminish our potential and weaken ourselves in the face of our enemies.
Let us look back in history, to the Land of Judah towards the end of the Second Temple Period when the Holy Sanctuary still stood in all its wondrous beauty. In this period the Jewish people, were deeply mired in the sins of baseless hatred, controversy and pride. The nation became increasingly divided into warring factions. The sons of the Almighty were not hearkening to the voice of God and a cruel enemy was sent to besiege them. This was the last warning sign from Above, a final chance for the nation to return to their Father in Heaven and to join together as brothers. Despite this warning, the lack of mutual respect and hatred only increased to intolerable levels. God regretfully gave the approval for the cursed Romans to destroy our Temple, the House of the Almighty God, our source of Glory, the fountain of our Light and our Life. We were removed and exiled from our holy land, which by Divine fiat cannot bear those who do not keep the commandments nor walk in the ways of the Almighty. At this tragic point in our history the spirit of division totally engulfed us and gave rise to lasting confusion.
This division first appeared when Judah and Joseph separated in the days of Rehoboam and Jeroboam. The resulting antagonism between the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel had a long lasting effect. The bond between the tribes had been weak and tenuous from the beginning, and finally it was cut asunder completely. The ten tribes of the Kingdom of Israel were cruelly torn out from their portion of the Land and were cast off into the far distance. This breaking up of our unity propagated itself into greater disaster when the remaining unity in the Kingdom of Judah painfully dissolved. The remaining tribes of Levi, Judah and Benjamin were also removed from the land and scattered in the domains of foreign, inimical nations. For their part, the Ten Tribes of the former Kingdom of Israel wandered away, became assimilated, and lost their identity. Willingly or by force of circumstance, they spread out into the far corners of the earth and became like the nations around them. By G-d’s grace, in our days they were found in the West, in Western Europe, the British Isles, North America, and Australia. In comparison, the Jews of the Kingdom of Judah, preserved their Jewish identity, though suffering under the hard yokes of cruel decrees of succeeding empires.
Thanks be to G-d, that at this time after many tribulations and much suffering, we have finally returned to the Land of our heritage. Because our Heavenly Father is gathering us and shelters us, we are now securely enabled to reach out to our Lost Brothers to help them return to us.If we look to G-d, with His help, we may yet reintegrate our forces and prove to our forefather Jacob, that we have not forgotten his final wish that we all come together. If we do this, we will be raised up again and merit the fulfillment of our promised redemption of the Commonwealth of Israel. Along with her, the entire world will then be redeemed. From the beginning we were meant to illuminate the way of G-d, to G-d, to be a "light to the Gentiles.” Let us gather together again from the corners of the earth into one whole undivided and holy nation!
“When the L_RD returned the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream.”
— Psalm 126:1