Cantor Eyal Bitton shares a few thoughts on prayer and the parasha of the week.

Jewish Unity

2023-08-26 Parashat Ki Tetzei

Rabbi Eleazar said in the name of Rabbi Hanina: “Students of Torah increase peace in the world… May there be peace within your walls, tranquility in your citadels. For the sake of my brothers and friends, pray for peace in your midst.”

These timeless words from the Talmud, recited right after “Ein K’Eloheinu” in the Lev Shalem siddur, capture the essence of our shared responsibility as students of Torah. They remind us that our pursuit of knowledge and understanding must go hand in hand with our commitment to fostering peace and unity within the Jewish people and the world. With this profound teaching as our guide, let us delve into Parashat Ki Tetzei and explore its message of embracing Jewish unity.

In Deuteronomy 21:1-4, we encounter a powerful lesson. It calls us to recognize that Jewish identity is a rainbow, a spectrum encompassing a beautiful array of beliefs, practices, and ideologies. This passage does not differentiate between political affiliations, religious observance, or ideological differences. Instead, it urges us to look beyond these divisions and extend a helping hand to our fellow Jews in times of peril or distress. 

Let us learn to view Jews of different denominations with respect and understanding. Instead of allowing our differences to create divisions, we should celebrate the rich tapestry of Jewish identity that reflects the diversity within our community. Each strand of this rainbow contributes to the vibrant mosaic that is the Jewish people.

Moreover, let us recognize that an attack on any Jew, regardless of their location, is an attack on our collective soul. Whether it occurs on the streets of Los Angeles, New York City, Paris, or Jerusalem, the pain and fear felt by our brothers and sisters should resonate deeply within us all. We must stand together, united against hatred and violence, offering support and solidarity to those in need.

The opening words I quoted earlier following “Ein K’Eloheinu,” the Talmud teaches us to pray for peace within our midst. These words echo the deep longing within our hearts for tranquility and harmony. They remind us that our pursuit of peace is not merely for ourselves but for the sake of our brothers and friends, for the sake of the entire Jewish people.

Let us embrace these teachings as a call to action. As students of Torah, it is our sacred duty to foster peace and unity within our Jewish communities and extend that harmony to the world around us. Through acts of kindness, understanding, and compassion, we can increase the bonds that connect us and fortify the foundation of our people.

Together, let us create a space where differences are celebrated, where respect for one another’s beliefs flourishes, and where the beauty of our diverse Jewish identity shines brightly. In this way, we will build a community that reflects the highest aspirations of our sacred heritage.

May the lessons of Parashat Ki Tetzei and the wisdom of our sages inspire us to stand united, recognizing that our strength lies in our unity and our shared commitment to the timeless values of Judaism. As we pray for peace in our midst, let us sow the seeds of understanding and love, making our world a brighter and more harmonious place for all.