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UNITY ̵ WITH OR WITHOUT UNIFORMITY
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The Jewish nation are united.

The Jewish nation are united

 

Even the greatest enemies of the Jewish nation admit that we are united, if not uniform.  Despite the striking differences among Jews, there is an underlying unity and mutual concern that is not found among any other ethnic group on the face of the earth.

The Scriptures recounts that we stood at Mount Sinai, over six million strong, "as one person…"  To achieve such unity, a nation must also be of "one heart," as the verse there states.

Occasionally, other nations also achieve national unity, when some external factor such as a common enemy causes them to coalesce temporarily, in self-defense.

Indeed, when Egypt pursued the people of Israel shortly after sending them post-haste out of their country, they too were united.  However the unifying force that brought them to act in unison was their desire to recover the slave labor which they had enjoyed for so many years, and now suddenly stood to lose completely.

The verse states: "And behold, Egypt was marching behind them…" (Exodus 14:10).  The verb "was marching" here is in the singular, to indicate that their forces were united in their intention to apprehend the "escaping" slaves and bring them back to Egypt.

In this instance, Pharaoh's men acted "as one man, with one heart."  This was an outstanding demonstration of concerted action, but it was taken not to bring benefit to mankind, but in an attempt to reinstate the cruel tyranny that Egypt had exercised over its slaves during the previous decades of their bondage.

This is but one instance of a historical principle we find throughout Jewish history: whatever good qualities the Jewish People display will appear also among their enemies as well.  However, their opponents will utilize this quality for evil, not for the good.

This is because the yetzer hara exploits whatever strengths it discovers among the Jewish people in order to win its battle against them. It is up to us to observe our opponents and to learn from them, as the verse says: "… make me wiser than my enemies."   (Psalms 119:98)  The Hebrew can also be translated as "make me wiser from my enemies."  When we see how the nations attack us, we can learn what tactics we should use to counteract their evil influence, so that the truth of Torah will triumph in the end.

The Egyptians were willing to risk their lives to pursue the Jews in the Red Sea.  Their motivation was to preserve the national prosperity which was the result of abundant slave labor.  They willingly fought valiantly in order to regain their former status.  Even Pharaoh went above and beyond the call of duty; he himself prepared his war chariot and harnessed the horses to it in preparation for this battle.  Then, with stirring cries to battle, he urged his best forces to follow him to victory over the fleeing Hebrew slaves.

He exhorted his men: "We have been stricken (by them); they took our money, and we sent them away.  Come with me (to pursue them).  I will not conduct myself with you as do other kings.  The way of other sovereigns is to send their servants into war before them, but I will go out before you, (in the lead.)"

This is the meaning of the words "… and Pharaoh drew near…" He went to the front lines and rode forth before his troops.

Most kings first choose of the spoils of war for themselves, and leave the rest for their men.  This time, Pharaoh promised his forces: "I will distribute the booty evenly among all of us."

We see from here how much Pharaoh and his men were willing to sacrifice in order to recapture the Jews.

There is a lesson here for us, yet today.  Just as the Egyptians were prepared to forego their personal interests, and united in their attempt to overcome us, so, too, should we unite in serving G-d and fulfilling His will.

Indeed, we find that the waters of the Red Sea split to create an escape route for the Jewish people only after Nachshon, the head of the tribe of Judah, responded to Moses's command to trust in G-d and to enter the waves.

His example of complete devotion to fulfilling G-d's will, served as the key that opened the gates of salvation for his entire nation.

May his sterling example inspire us yet today to follow in his footsteps with selfless devotion.


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