“Our Camp” – The Jewish People

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Vayera 5771 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Sometimes people talk with me and use the expression “our camp,” so I respond, “Hold it right there! Who is ‘our camp’? Our camp is the Jewish People!” Certainly, within our Nation, different Jews are different from one another. The Jewish People includes all kinds. Yet they all belong to ‘our camp.’
By contrast, the non-Jews are not “our camp”. They, too, were created in G-d’s image, and when we recite the “Aleinu” prayer, we are praying for them as well. But they’re not our camp. Avraham was called the Hebrew, the “Ivri”, because he, so to speak, stood on one side [ever] of the river, and all the rest of mankind stood on the other. They, too, have righteous people, and the righteous of the nations have a place in the World-to-Come, but even they are not our camp. And within the Jewish People, there are individuals who do sins, and sometimes there are even wicked people, but they are our camp. If your son does not behave well, he remains your son. Yet your neighbor’s son, even if he behaves well, is not your son.
As was first noted by Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the Arizal, the Hebrew word for Jewish community is “Tzibur”, the letters of which constitute an acronym for Tzadikim [righteous people], Benonim [people in the middle] and Resha’im [evildoers]. Indeed, some Jews are great saints, others are in the middle, and still others are worse. Yet they are all part of our Tzibbur, our camp.
In the Pesach Haggadah, we read how the Torah was addressing four types of sons, wise and wicked, simple, and too ignorant to ask questions. Yet all four are sons, and the Torah addressed all four. All four are our camp.
Moreover, the division into righteous, wicked and in-between is a personal division and not a communal division. A person may wear a Kipah but be wicked – heaven help us – and the opposite is possible as well.
Therefore, one should not divide up the Jewish People into groups and sectors. We already suffered from such divisions during the Destruction of the Second Temple. As the Netziv teaches in his introduction to his “Ha-Emek Davar,” at that time the Jewish People was divided up into groups, and whoever was not like one’s own group was deemed a Saducee or a heretic who had to fought and killed. During the First Temple Period as well, the split became so bad that we had two separate nations.
There was also a division by tribes, with each tribe considering itself a separate country and its own camp. Therefore, when one tribe was attacked, other tribes did not always go into battle to defend it, because that didn’t interest them. Neither did they want marriages between tribes. You have certainly noticed that today no one knows what tribe he comes from, besides the Kohanim and Levi’im, for whom this bears halachic ramifications. We remember many things about our origins. How can it be that no one remembers what tribe he came from?
The answer is found in Rav Kook’s work “Orot” (page 43). There Rav Kook explained that G-d made a decision that our tribalism should be forgotten. In the future it will be restored. As is explained at the end of Yechezkiel, our country will once more be divided up into tribes. Presently, however, G-d does not want tribalism, but a single Nation. When we live as one people, in love and brotherhood, peace and friendship, then our tribal divisions will resurface as different shades of a single, great nation.
Rav Kook, in his article “Masa Ha-Machanot” declared his total dissatisfaction with our division into “religious vs. secular” or “Chareidi vs. free-thinker.” These, he said, are “the names of [the pagan deity] Ba’al” – that’s what he called it (Ma’amarei HaRe’iyah 76).
Rather, we are one people. The proof of this is that even if in the past, as I said, when one tribe was attacked by the enemy, other tribes did not go forth to help them, today, by contrast, when a Jew is attacked, a million Jews go forth to defend him. Neither do they make calculations of who is called religious, secular, right wing or left wing. Chareidi or National Religious. That doesn’t interest them!
Rather, all fight for all. All for one and one for all!
That is a sign that we have overcome our tribalism. This million people comprises the largest youth movement in the Jewish People, larger than Bnei Akiva, Ezra, and Ariel combined. This movement is the I.D.F.. The Israel army is synonymous with unity.
This is our camp! Let’s not start dividing up the Jewish People into “camps”. Rather, let us say,
“Who is like Your people, Israel, one Nation in the Land!” (Divrei Ha-Yamim 117:21).