| Voice in the Crowd |

Lessons from the Mountain

Jews don’t hit other Jews, period. They don’t hit anyone, for that matter



There’s something that should be obvious to everyone and really is obvious to everyone, but still needs to be said, for whatever reason.

Jews don’t hit other Jews, period.

They don’t hit anyone, for that matter.

So if you see a picture or video that indicates otherwise, whether it’s a baton being waved through the crisp Meron air, or a fist peeking through a silk beketshe against a backdrop of Jerusalem stone, know this.

It’s over 3,300 years since we were all there, at the Mountain, and we promised to uphold the Word, to honor its Giver, and to love and cherish those who received it along with us.

If this were PTA or we were getting a report card, the report would be pretty nice, I think.

We still live our lives bound up with those around us, barely realizing that we’re doing a million small things a day that testify that the bond lives, alive and well.

Recently, I saw a message on a Tehillim chat that reinforced that. It was one of those random text groups made up of people who don’t even know each other, friends adding friends who add other friends eager to help out a suffering patient in the realest of ways, by taking kapitlach 31 to 35 (and then wondering if this means 35 is included or not, and going back to check what the next person took…. Someone really has to compile the halachos of Tehillim groups. Also, people know to put down their phones as kapitel 119 approaches, but there are a few other perakim that are pretty long too and rookies innocently take them without realizing).

Anyhow, so it was a chat dedicated to various cholei Yisrael, good people checking in when they have a free moment, elevating the free time on line at the DMV to better the lots of brothers and sisters.

Then an update came in. The mother of a young man who was facing illness shared a happy development in her son’s medical journey. Then, she added a line. The young man had benefitted from so much tefillah as a result of the group, and now, he was officially healed. Though he was still weak, she felt that the remarkably potent force of tefillas rabbim should now be given to someone who needed it more, so she thanked everyone and asked them remove her son’s name from the list.

It was moving because she could have left it there — who among us can’t benefit from others davening for them? — but she understood that this is a currency, like money, and if someone needed the help more, the gracious thing is to step aside and let them access it. Because even though people can daven for several names at once, the nature of humans is that they lose steam after a while and when there is less urgency, they daven less intensely.

Take the gift of urgent tefillos and give it to someone else, she said.

I imagine how one day, when Mashiach comes, anyone who has ever davened for an unfamiliar name — a patient, an accident victim, someone waiting for a spouse or child to appear, facing a serious court case, whatever — will meet the person for whom they prayed, feeling a surge of such love and connection. If Jewish geography is still a thing when Mashiach is here — and why wouldn’t it be, it will be even more fun, because there will be so many more generations in the pool — these two Jews will talk and realize that at one point, the prayee davened on behalf of the davener too, perhaps his or her family or community.

The web of tefillos that connects us isn’t visible to us, but in Shamayim, they see the lines running this way and that, weaving us together now just as then.

You can talk about that at your Shavuos table, with its six meals in a row. How many times can you sing Kad Yasvun?

Still, maybe someone saw unsettling pictures or videos, and maybe they don’t understand why, in a world in which there are so many other nations eager to punch, kick, curse, and hurt us, a Jew is mesugal to do that to another Jew. Spoiler alert. I also don’t understand it. But baruch Hashem, there are other things to talk about.

Talk about how you can go to a Shabbos simchah in any frum community and people who don’t know you will happily offer their guest rooms to you — no reservations, you don’t have to use points, make yourself comfortable — because after all, you’re family.

Now it’s true that there’s something in it for them, because after all, you’re giving them the candy dish someone gave you when they stayed in your basement, but still.

A Lakewood developer told me that people who are able to allow themselves the expense build homes with an expansive guest room, separate entrance included, l’chatchilah. They’re eager to sanctify their entire new home with this mitzvah. Wouldn’t Avraham Avinu recognize that desire in his children, all these years later?

So all in all, we’re still doing okay.

Here’s my plea and my suggestion, especially to those who feel that they have a mitzvah to cause harm or damage to other Yidden.

Look into the eyes of the person you feel you have to hurt. If you were a Hatzalah volunteer and he needed treatment — and you could not see his face and didn’t know his name — you would give up sleep to save him. If he were a stranded traveler in your city, wandering around cluelessly, you would see his yarmulke and rush to take care of him. If you saw a thug trying to hurt him and you were able, you would get involved and shield him with your own body, because he is a Jew.

You wouldn’t ask what hechsher he eats, where or if he davens, or whether or not he wears Rabbeinu Tam tefillin. You would intuitively rise to his defense, because you remember what we were told at the Mountain, right?

So pretend you don’t know him. Go back to there, where we only knew Him, and that was more than enough.

Please get your bearings, remember why your great-grandparents died in Auschwitz, and lower your fist. Instead, use this season, this great, great day, to start again.

We’ve done it before and we can do it again.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 913)

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