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Friday
Aug162019

Adjusting to Life Without Enemies

An event that happened recently left me feeling very happy, and strangely, somewhat “empty” too.

By Levi Liberow

There was a long feud in a community I’m associated with, and one morning, I woke up with the news that the almost decade-old dispute was peacefully and respectfully settled.

It felt good, and also a bit strange. In the years leading up to this day, the “group-identity” became a part of me. Belonging to a side meant that I don’t patronize certain establishments and that I don’t respect certain figures.And suddenly, a part of my life was just torn away with the stroke of a pen!

I remember once hearing that prisoners, who no doubt want to leave jail, develop a fear of life outside bars. Is this what I was feeling?

***

The concept of machlokes is older than man. Adam and Chava were created on the sixth day of creation, while machlokes came on the scene on the second.

Machlokes is a result of the duality, which is the essence in the core of creation. Creation is only possible when the true reality of Hashem is “hidden away,” so another kind of existence becomes possible.

Machlokes has its pluses; if done l’shem Shamayim, both sides become etched for eternity in the annals of our people and are remembered in a positive light.

Machlokes even existed before evil. Not every feud is between good and bad and right and wrong.

Let’s take marriage for example. Isn’t a union between a husband and wife a machlokes in the making? They are different in so many ways. Why try to live together in the first place?

True, peace can always be achieved. But don’t they say that “a wise person stays out of situations a smart person can get out of”?

But the truth is that at its core, machlokes is the desire of two distinct approaches and ideas to engage with each other and enter the world of one another. This desire may become tainted by harsh words and hard feelings due to a lack of communication skills. Peace can be achieved by learning a common language.

***

Machlokes has other good sides as well. As ironic as it may sound, antisemitism was and is the most significant contributor to Jewish unity; religious oppression was the greatest manufacturer of Mesirus Nefesh, and imagine if there were no “misnagdim jokes” — how then would we be able to define how a Chassid should behave?

A great foundation in Avodas Hashem is setting the border between kodesh and chol; between tamei and tahor; between gashmiyus and ruchniyus. The “enemy having mentality” is instrumental in knowing our place in the world.

Having an enemy — or at least a counterpart — has forever been one of the best ways to define yourself and clarify where you stand on a matter. “I look at you and thus I know what I’m not.”

An enemy and counterpart is an asset: when there lacks contrast, there lacks clarity.

***

But are things meant to stay this way forever? Are duality and machlokes the fate of the world forever?

We come now from a time when we highlight the number three in our heightened hope for the third Beis Hamikdash.

Chassidus expounds upon the numbers one, two, and three. One is the state of unity possible because there is no other. Two is a state of disunity since an “other” has appeared on the horizon. Three is achdus when the one and the two have combined and thus created a new reality – three.

The first Beis Hamikdash represented Hashem alone. It was a holy and sublime place, but only for Tzaddikim. This wasn’t the ultimate purpose of the Beis Hamikdash.

The second Beis Hamikdash was a place of baalei teshuva, people to whom the world had to be perceived as an enemy so that they could guarantee their own survival. That too could not last forever.

Now we’re building and expecting Beis Hamikdash number three.

“Three” symbolizes powerful and absolute unity between Hashem and the world, between the physical and the spiritual, and between darkness and light.

The Rebbe Rashab in 5659 spoke about his students of the new Yeshiva Tomchei T’mimim — being Chayalei Beis Dovid — going out to fight a full-on war against the world.

Ninety-two years later, in 5751, the Rebbe announced that this war is over. We are in a new phase of Avoda:

No longer can we define ourselves by our enemies. The world has become an ally to Judaism. We must instead view ourselves as parts of a system of unity, rather than of duality.

A famous secular figure at the time said of the Rebbe Rashab, paraphrasing a well-known ma’amar Chazal: “He knows the world, and intends to rebel against it.” Of the Rebbe, we can say, “he knows the world and is determined to win it over to his cause.”

In simple words, the time has come for us to inspire ourselves to do what’s right, not because someone else opposes it, but because it’s right. We must find ways to better communicate with the world and win it over to our cause. Fighting with it is going out of style.

Let’s get ready for a world where being a Jew is not a reaction to goyishkeit, and being a Chassid is not defined by being not a misnaged.

A time is coming upon us where goyishkeit and misnagdim won’t exist to guarantee our survival as Jews and Chassidim anymore.

Relying on that type of inspiration or incentive will leave us just feeling empty.

It will leave us like that Rosh Yeshiva, who was a master in refuting other’s original ideas. When he came up after 120 years, he was asked by the Heavenly Court to repeat some of his novel ideas. He responded to Hashem and said, “Zahg Du, un ich vel op-freggen — You say something, and I will refute it…”

There comes a time when that trick no longer works.

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