Thursday, March 09, 2006

Purim: "Go, Gather All the Jews"




During these days of Purim, in these difficult hours, many adversities from without besiege and afflict the entire nation of Israel.

Yet the greatest anguish stems from our internal conflicts, because internal tranquility, the peaces of the House of Israel, is lacking. Let us then recall those days and their events as they are recorded in the Scroll of Esther, written, as it was, with divine inspiration. For the divine spirit transcends all passages of time and the changing ideologies of each generation. The eternal words "Go, gather all the Jews" must once again revitalize us and elevates us from our degradation.

Is Unity Possible?

But one may certainly ask: Is it really possible today to gather all of the Jews? How can one unite all the different factions and parties? How will the bones scattered across the wide valley of exile — both material and spiritual — once again form that entity known as "Klal Yisrael" and put forth a demand for its strength, its renewal, and a return from its captivity?

The answer is that there is one location where this dispersion, both physical and spiritual, cannot govern us. But you should object: We see with our own eyes the awful internal strife, Jews fighting Jews, brothers turning against brothers like wolves and snakes. How then can one say, "Go, gather the Jews"?

Whoever thinks that Haman was lying when he said, "There is one nation scattered and divided" [Esther 3:8], is mistaken. Indeed, this one nation is scattered and divided, but nevertheless, it is one nation. Nor should one question the possibility of a nation being simultaneously united and divided. There are wonders in the world. This nation, whose entire existence in the world rests upon wondrous wonders, demonstrates by its very existence that it is essentially one nation, despite its being scattered and divided.

True, the malady of exile has scattered and divided us. But the Eternal One of Israel does not lie. The exile and all of its terrors must come to an end. Now that the wind has begun to blow from the four corners of the earth, from both the troubles surrounding us and from the spiritual revelation which stirs us to return and be rebuilt in the land of our life — now we are nearing the realization that there is a cure for the malady of our dispersion and division. In the final analysis, we are, and shall be, one nation, and Israel shall once again rise to the eternal words, "Go, gather all the Jews."

The Hidden Collective Soul

But the difficult question obstructing the path of redemption remains: dispersion and division are consuming us. The answer is that a person has two aspects. Medical treatment of the individual draws from the inner springs of vitality and health dormant within a person's soul. That soul is so hidden that the patient himself is unaware of its essence. Spiritual maladies and their physical manifestations infect only the baser part of man, that familiar side of which he is aware. But his hidden, unknown side always bursts with energy, brimming with life and strength. This hidden repository of health has the power to affect the outer self, which misleads one into thinking that he is sick and feeble when he in fact possesses an energetic, healthy soul full of life and vigor.

That which is true for the individual applies to a much greater degree to the entire collective. "Klal Yisrael" in particular is truly one nation: "And who is like Your nation, Israel, one nation in the land?" [I Sam. 15:19] We must therefore admit our error in identifying the essence of Israel with its surface appearance, its outer, baser side. For this self-image has made us fearful. We are conscious only of our dispersion and division.

The Hamans of every generation, who strike at us with their poisonous hatred, particularly in this transition period, perceive our weak side, for it is visible and recognizable. But precisely through these tribulations we shall come to sense that we possess a previously unknown, collective soul, a great national spirit whose existence we have forgotten. It abounds with vitality and possesses sufficient power to renew our lives as of old and to withstand all of the Amalekites who wish to smite our feeble.

This hidden Judaism, unknown even to ourselves, this great soul of a great nation, which bears both the suffering and the light of the world within it, will become known to us during these portentous times. The blessing of "Go, gather the Jews" will emerge from its unknown place in the national soul. Every Purim we must appreciate the great, hidden repository of our blessedness and wealth and the virtue of our oneness, which shall vanquish our scattered and divided side. From a condition of 'until he cannot distinguish between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordechai' comes the supernal inclination to find the unknown Jew within us. Brothers shall know one another and join hands, and a mighty voice will be heard: "Let us rise up and ascend to Zion, to the house of our Lord!" [Jer. 31:5]

[from "Celebration of the Soul," translated by R. Pesach Jaffe, pp. 126-129]

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