Dealing with Adversity – Fostering Shalom and Achdus

 At Kabbalas HaTorah, the Torah states (Shemos 19: 2) “Vayichan sham Yisrael negged hahar — And Yisrael encamped there oppo­site the mountain.” The word “vayichan — encamped” appears in singular, upon which Rashi comments, “As one man, with one heart (i.e., one desire).” This sense of ach­dus (unity)made them worthy of receiving the Torah. We see from there the pivotal and auspicious role achdus plays in the collective life of Klal Yisrael.

Chazal taught (Yerushalmi, Peah, 1:1) that, during the era of Achav, although observance of Yiddishkeit was weak, since there was unity; the people didn’t defame another and they merited being victorious in battle. On the other hand, in the epoch of Dovid Hamel­ech, when Torah knowledge and observance were at a high point, they lost many wars because there were slanderers among them. Achdus provides protection even to the wick­ed.

When there is strife, our enemies have free reign to attack us. Achdus serves as a shield. During the last year in Eretz Yisrael, there has been much discord among Jews.

Reassuringly, in the aftermath of the attack on Simchas Torah, Yidden has come together in unprecedented ways. Secular Jews have committed themselves to keeping Shabbos, donning tefillin and other mitzvos. Chareidim have been collecting funds, food and other supplies for soldiers and volun­teering to assist displaced residents of the border communities.

Many groups from the Diaspora have been traveling to Eretz Yisrael to give succor to their brethren. One such group met several almanos who lost their husbands fighting the terrorists and were overwhelmed by their emunah. One widow’s message was “Please, please maintain the achdus of the present moment. If Am Yisrael loses the achdus, it would be as if my husband perished twice.”

Still and all, in a political and communal context, achdus is reasonably attainable for the present given the shared contempt for a common archfoe. But what about fostering unity and peace for the long term — and in the realm of family, friends, neighbors and kehillos where relationship baggage exists?

With creativity and planning, it can be achieved. The question, how do we do it?

Some lessons are best conveyed via illus­tration. Consider the following two stories of how our Gedolei Yisrael fostered shalom — in a family setting and among Yidden in general.

Harav Beinush Finkel, zt”l, Rosh Yeshi­vah of Mir Yerushalayim, had to mediate a complex inheritance case involving several brothers, each of whom felt the money was his and had no interest in compromise. Rav Beinush visited each brother separately, tell­ing him that the funds belonged to him. “But” he added, “shalom is a big mitzvah. Just like one pays for mitzvos like arba minim and matzah, sometimes it is necessary to part with money for the mitzvah of shalom.” That seemed reasonable and so each agreed to give up 20% for shalom and the case was worked out.

Once, Harav Shlomo Heiman, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivah of Torah Vodaath, and his Rebbetzin were planning to rent a summer home togeth­er with another family. She showed him a list of expenses that she expected it would incur. “You forgot to add ‘shalom bayis gelt,’” he told her. “What is ‘shalom bayis gelt?’ she asked. He explained, “When two parties undertake an arrangement such as this, it is very likely that one party will claim the other used more water or more electricity or benefited from the house in some other way and will ask the other party to pay extra. The first party will be annoyed due to this extra expense and claim it is not so, and a heated conversation occurs. I wish to avoid machlokes, so let’s fac­tor in some additional money for such a pos­sibility and if such a request is made, we will be able to pay it readily, since the money has already been accounted for.”

If we seek Divine favor, we need to leave our comfort zone and overcome the instinct for revenge and antagonism, notwithstand­ing how difficult it is. The achdus we seek doesn’t mean we always agree but we remain civil. According to the effort is the reward, Pirkei Avos tells us, and consider that the zechuyos the soldiers, the hostages and all of Klal Yisrael gain thereby can impact the cur­rent situation substantively.

In Shemoneh Esrei we beseech for sha­lom al kol Yisrael amechah — on all of Klal Yisrael. Chazal (Uktzin 3:12) tell us, “HaKadosh Baruch Hu found no vessel to hold blessing for Yisrael other than peace.” If so, let’s work on giving Hashem reasons to fill these vessels with peace and all good things — on the individual level and for Klal Yisrael — as is surely His desire.

Rabbi Yosef Gesser is a longtime writer for Hamodia Newspaper as well as an inspirational speaker on various topics, including dealing with adversity. He can be reached at

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