“Assemble yourselves and I will tell you what will befall you in the end of days.” (Genesis 49:1) These are Yaakov Avinu’s (our Father Jacob’s) prophetic words to his sons as he prepares to leave this world.
These words contain the essential pre-condition to the fulfillment of our role as Hashem’s representatives in this world. “Ha-asfu … assemble yourselves…” These are strong words directed to those who had sold their brother into slavery after plotting against his life, but we are not going to be able to survive unless we are united.
“The rabbis said: Yaakov commanded [his sons] concerning [avoiding] dissension, saying to them, ’You should all be united together in peace.’” (Genesis Rabbah 98:2)
I was in a non-Jewish health facility recently. Several Jews entered wearing yarmulkas. I looked up to greet them, but they looked away. Why? Are we not brothers?
Our role in world events, our survival as Jews, is predicated on our unity. Disunity is catastrophe for us and for the world. We give lip service to unity, but we have to ask whether we actually pay attention to our own words.
A terrible attack took place in Monsey during Chanukah. Do you think this is an isolated event?
My friends, it is viscerally comforting to hear the President, the governor of New York and other officials express shock at this event. We are grateful to them. But at the same time, we have to understand that all could turn black in an instant, the way things suddenly turned black in Biblical Egypt, when a new Pharaoh arises who “does not know” Yosef (Joseph). This is what happened in Germany not long ago and has happened repeatedly during our long Exile. Our only protection is to turn with all our hearts to “Magen Avraham … the Shield of Abraham,” Hashem, our Only Protector.
At this time, every year, I recall events which happened long ago, “l’hodos u’l’hallel … to thank and praise” Hashem. Readers may remember this account from these columns or my book, From Central Park to Sinai: How I Found My Jewish Soul, but I feel bound to mention them.
“Ma ashiv … How can I repay Hashem for all His kindness to me!” (Psalm 116).
In 1966, when my wife and I were newly-married college students, my life started plunging downward. Since childhood, I had tried every path I could think of to “fix” myself, but nothing worked. On January 10, 1966 – which I later found out was the 18th day of the Jewish Month of Teves – I awoke at 2 a.m. and started crying. It was all over! I was falling down a black chute to eternal oblivion! In the terrible darkness, I suddenly had a thought: “Could there be a G-d?”
That thought saved me.
My friends, if we cry out “b’chol levav’chem u’vechol naf’shechem … with all our hearts and souls” to Hashem to save us, this itself will unite us and we will suddenly see the Ultimate Redemption for which we all yearn!
“Chazak! Chazak!” May Hashem give us strength!
May we greet Moshiach ben Dovid soon in our days!