One People, One Heart
July 9, 2021
By Rus Devorah Wallen

I’m Rus Devorah Wallen, and I’d like to share my T for 2, my Torah thought for two minutes, more or less. I’d like to dedicate this week’s T for 2 to my dear friend, Masha bas Feigel whose birthday is this week.  She exemplifies the traits we will be discussing here.

This week’s Torah portion is a double one, Matos and Massei. There is tons to speak about, but a quick synopsis of Matos is that it discusses the laws of vows and oaths and the means to nullify them, the war with Midian that G-d commands Moshe to lead, after which he will die. (Between you and me, I would stretch that war out as long as possible.) Massei then takes us on our 42 various trips that lead us circuitously and with many lessons learned to the Promised Land.

In our portion it says, “The L-rd spoke to Moses, saying, Avenge the Israelite people on the Midianites; then you shall be gathered to your kin.” That means, once Moshe was able to successfully wage this war, his mission would be fulfilled, and he could leave the world. The evil Midianites were known for such depravities as child sacrifice, cult prostitution, and bestiality. They were also known as a stubborn nation out to create havoc and division between people. The verse we just mentioned is discussed in the famous ma’amar or discourse, Heichaltzu – “Arm Yourselves,” by the Rebbe Rashab – the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe‘s father. According to the verse it seems that Moshe’s success in waging this war is connected with his life purpose and his passing. Although Midian is not one of the lands that we needed to conquer to be included in the Promised Land, G-d requested retribution for what this wicked nation did to the Jewish People through their attacks and seductions.

According to the ma’amar – the word Midian is related to the word madon which means contention and strife. Every nation has a spiritual component representing an emotional attribute or sefira, which we have previously discussed. The attribute of Midian is division and antipathy. This persona is characterized by hatred and disunity between people. This is the exact opposite of holiness and G-dliness. As we say in our Shema prayer, testifying the watchword of our faith, “Hear, oh, Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One.” That means everything is included in Him as One, each of us needs to be unified not only with G-d but with our fellows.

Since the attribute of Midian is baseless hatred, there is no reason for it. The ma’amar explains that the ego causes blindness to others. These people rationalize their position, they point at blame at others, and are extremely intolerant. The self-absorption is so great there is no room for anyone else. Automatically with this position of defensiveness, everybody is their opponent.

In contrast, the attribute of holiness is inclusion, and unity, just like we say in the Shema. To emulate G-d and try to connect with his unity is the goal. This can only occur when we humble ourselves. According to the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman, true wisdom is characterized by humility. It’s found in the word Chochmah which is comprised of two different words, Ko’ach/Mah. The potential for what is. It’s open to all possibilities. Thus, a person who is in a state of humility or self-nullification, can feel connected with anybody and everyone. As you may recall it says when the Jewish people encamped at the mountain to receive the Torah, it uses a singular form of the verb. According to Rashi it demonstrated that we are one people with one heart.

These days it seems that the attribute of Midian has popped up everywhere. It been very difficult to see eye to eye even our closest friends and family. The world is divided, politics are polarized, religious groups are oppositional, even medical and research groups are contradictory and unreceptive to one another. The lesson of this week’s portion is, let us all come together, unified as one people with one heart to be able to “enter the land” without strife.

Rus Devorah Wallen is an accomplished musician, performer, social worker, psychotherapist, and educator.

One People, One Heart - Jewish thought of the week graphic