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1 People Or 1 Heart?

02/17/2017 12:13:06 PM


What attracts you to another person? What type of connection do you aim to create in a relationship?

One way to connect with another is by looking for common ground - similar interests, hobbies, lifestyle and values.

Another way to connect with another is by discovering a point within them that makes you and them actually one.

When your relationship is founded upon common ground, it is limited. It will last only so long as there remains common ground, and it runs only as deep as your interests lie within you.

When your relationship is founded upon an innate oneness, it is unlimited. It isn’t contingent on anything specific, and no changes that ever occur can ever affect the relationship.

The first way describes a connection that you can potentially create with anyone.

The second way describes a connection that you can only create with some people, with those that at the core you are indeed one. Such as a spouse.

If your relationship with your spouse is solely founded upon common ground, that would be very sad. Because you are severely limiting your relationship with someone who you can enjoy an unlimited relationship. A healthy marriage is when two spouses have discovered how they are indeed one, despite their possible many differences. They don’t necessarily look for, nor expect, to be similar in all ways. They approve of, and respect, each other’s differences. Their relationship runs far deeper than any of their opinions or habits. Their relationship knows no bounds. They are simply one.

The same goes for the family of Jews. Jews shares a common soul with each other, and we are essentially bound by this oneness. If we choose to only celebrate our relationship with like-minded Jews, we lose out on two fronts: 1) We evidently have limited the kind of relationship we could have had with those like-minded Jews. We are capable of connecting with them far deeper than our shared interests. 2) We don’t allow ourselves to connect with those who are dissimilar to ourselves, which means that a) we miss out on enjoying a relationship with family members, and b) we have failed to recognize and appreciate our essential identity, which gravitates towards all who share the same essence.

When the Jews camped by Mount Sinai ready to receive the Torah, a story from this week’s Torah portion Yitro, the verse says “And he camped by the mountain.” The usage of the singular ‘he’, referring to the whole nation, prompts the Sages to declare that their encampment was “Like one people with one heart.” This is a most heartening teaching. Yet in just last week’s portion, Beshalach, we find a similar textual oddity with regards to the Egyptian nation. When the Egyptians were pursuing the Jews hoping to finally destroy them, the verse says, “And the Jews lifted their eyes, and behold, he was chasing after them…” Again, the singular ‘he’ is used referring to the Egyptian nation. Here too our Sages declared, that their war-march was “With one heart like one people.” So perhaps unity isn’t such a great virtue after all, if it can equally describe the Jews’ excitement to receive the Torah and the Egyptians’ zeal to destroy the Jews?

The answer to this is most profound. We need to carefully study the words of our Sages. The Jews’ unity was described as “Like one people with one heart,” whereas the Egyptians’ unity was described as “With one heart like one people.” Did you notice the difference? The two teachings are written in the opposite order. Does being ‘one people’ create ‘one heart’, or vice-versa?

The Egyptians weren’t really an essentially unified people at their core. The only thing that brought them together was some common ground, in this instance being their shared hatred for the Jews. Hence the commentary “With one heart like one people,” namely that only due to their shared feeling could they unite as one. But if and when that feeling changed, no unity would remain. However, the Jews were now joining into a newfound entity of One Nation united by a common soul and identity. Hence the commentary “Like one people with one heart,” meaning that their oneness stemmed from their essence, and wasn’t contingent upon any external feeling or expression.

This is truly an amazing concept, which we all need to make more of an effort to realize. But I think we can take this even one step deeper:

The Rabbi’s didn’t just describe the Jews as “One people”, but rather “One people with one heart.” In other words, it seems that our shared unity isn’t just that we are innately one in our souls, but also that we are capable of actually feeling that oneness in our conscious hearts and persona. When we learn to discover our essentially unity, we will not only be able to ‘tolerate and respect’ each other no matter our differences, but that we will also be capable of truly empathizing with each other’s distinct characteristics and shtick, in a loving kind of way. When we succeed in connecting with the concept of “One people,” then we are assured to enjoy “One heart” with each other as well.

Fri, December 3 2021 29 Kislev 5782