Dear Readers,

On Shavuot, we read: “In the third month after the exodus from Egypt, they came to the wilderness of Sinai ... and Israel encamped there before the mountain.” (Exodus 19)

The Mechilta comments: “Everywhere else it is written, ‘They traveled ... they encamped’ [in the plural]. That is to say ‘they traveled’ with dissenting opinions and ‘they encamped’ with dissenting opinions. Here, however, [it is written] ‘and Israel encamped,’ [in the singular, for] all were equally of one heart.”

It’s normal for large groups of people to have dissenting views, but what was extraordinary was that when the Jews prepared to receive the Torah, an unusual feeling of peace, calm and unity embraced them. At Sinai, they camped “like one man, with one heart.”

The Torah stresses that this happened in the third month because this is the secret of the number three. One indicated exclusivity, two represents dissent, while three has the power of bringing the two opposing opinions together in a third option that validates both.

This is what true unity is. It doesn’t mean that you and I do the exact same thing, or that we think along the same lines. It means that while we are each individuals with unique ways of thinking and acting, we, nevertheless, respect and value the contribution of each other.

Over the last many weeks, since COVID-19 started, I’ve seen tremendous examples of unity. I’d like to share just a few. Please share more in the comments below.

  • Volunteers offering to shop for those in quarantine or for the elderly.
  • Entertainers and singers offering free entertainment to keep children (and adults) occupied.
  • Nurses and doctors in such frenzied, dangerous circumstances who took the extra time to uplift their patient’s spirits.
  • The thousands of people who recovered from COVID-19 and stood in line to donate blood plasma for those who are sick.
  • The huge numbers of prayer groups formed around the world, where participants said a chapter or more of Psalms, to pray for someone they didn’t even know at every hour of day and night.
  • Teachers working extra hard to ensure their students are learning and coping.
  • The beautiful Torah lessons on Zoom and Facebook continuously popping up; those teaching as well as those participating.
  • Businesses that offer free services or greatly reduced rates, just to help.
  • The many generous groups being set up by regular people to offer financial support to families after their devastating losses.
  • The helplines and therapists offering free emotional support.
  • Grocery stores that incorporate hours for the elderly or immune compromised so that they can shop more safely.
  • People who have been sewing and donating masks during the shortages.
  • Each and every person who stayed home during this time, to minimize the risk of others getting sick.

Our world is suffering terribly, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time. But our world is also undergoing a tremendous show of unity, where we are standing “apart” but “together” as we move forward towards healing, equally of one heart.

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW