Unity or Diversity?

Friday, 18 September, 2015 - 3:00 pm

Unity or Diversity?

Diversity is present in society today, more than ever before. All major companies and organizations seek to highlight their real, or staged, commitment to diversity. A society that values diversity is one that values a multiplicity of cultures, races, opinions, etc.

What does Judaism, which values oneness, think about diversity? Is there an inherent contradiction between Judaism, which is all about the unity of G-d, and the celebration of diversity?  

The universe is indeed a diverse place. Seven billion humans share planet earth with an estimated 10 to 14 million forms of life. Yet, at the core, all life share the same basic building blocks, and at the soul level, all life is sustained by a soul, part of the one G-d.   

The more we focus on the external, the more we focus on the body, the more multiplicity we see. The more we study the soul, the more we focus on the internal, the more we focus of the spark of G-d within every creation, the more we see oneness. 

The same is true within our own life. On a given day, we divide our time between a multiplicity of activities and roles. A single person on a single day can be a farmer, a father, a child, a husband, a banker, a tennis coach, a friend, a philanthropist, and a garbage remover. This often leads to great tension and conflict, threatening to rob the person of peace of mind, and of a wholesome life.

Each activity, each role, has a soul, an inner meaning and significance. On the soul level, praying and eating breakfast share an inner purpose. We can connect to G-d both by feeding the body and by feeding the soul.     

The Jewish people too, are comprised of people of diverse emotional and intellectual makeup. What bonds us as a people is the feeling that we are all standing at the foot of Mount Sinai, with one soul. With a shared mission and destiny.

Moses understood that once the Jewish people would cross the Jordan River and enter the land of Israel, leaving the experiences of the desert behind them, the Divine revelation at Sinai would become the stuff of ancient history.

Moses understood that in order for Judaism to survive, the Jew in the future generation would need to experience, not just learn about, the uniting experience of Sinai. Moses therefore communicated the Mitzvah of Hakhel (assembly), the commandment that men women and children gather in the temple in Jerusalem, at the end of every seventh year, to hear the Torah being read, reenacting the revelation at Sinai. As the Torah states[1]:

Then, Moses commanded them, saying, "At the end of [every] seven years, at an appointed time, in the Festival of Succoth, [after] the year of release. When all Israel comes to appear before the Lord, your God, in the place He will choose, you shall read this Torah before all Israel, in their ears. Assemble the people: the men, the women, and the children, and your stranger in your cities, in order that they hear, and in order that they learn and fear the Lord, your God, and they will observe to do all the words of this Torah.

Moses taught that once in every seven years, immediately following the Sabbatical year, we celebrate  the year of Hakhel [this year, 5776, is a Hakhel year on the Jewish Calendar] during which time we must unite. We must gather all the diverse parts of our life, all the diverse souls around us, and unite through the study of Torah which allows us to dig deep and discover the unifying soul. 



 [1] Deuteronomy 31:12

Comments on: Unity or Diversity?

Alex Troy wrote...

Doesn't the Torah use a singular noun to describe the Children of Israel when they camp at Sinai's base, waiting to receive the Torah? If so, this shows that our greatest moments come when we unite. Shabbat Shalom and Yacher Koach, Rabbi