Priorities in Jewish Life
By Nachum Mohl
Tell me, what do you think is more important, Jewish unity or being involved and exact in performance of the Mitzvoth? On one side, we know that G-d has given us many Mitzvoth to perform. On the other hand, we know that it is imperative that Jews behave with brotherly concern towards their fellow Jews.
Let's explore this question:
The Torah is full of G-d's mitzvoth; there are 613 divinely designed commandments which are obligatory for each Jew to perform. In addition there are those mitzvoth that the rabbis have added on, such as Purim, Chanukah, plus various other aspects to the G-d given mitzvoth. In order to serve G-d properly it is incumbent upon us to learn how and perform them correctly. Only when we perform these mitzvoth correctly then we can have a close relationship to G-d. This is a G-d-man relationship.
Jewish unity is a different dimension. It is the relationship between two (or more) Jews. How do they interact between themselves. It is the fiber that promotes well being of the individuals. Without unity, Jews would break into separate cliques, clans and cults.
So what would you consider the most important of the two and why?
Perhaps we can derive at an answer by likening the question to a father who had several children. He requests from his children to do some household chores: clean the floor, wash the dishes, take out the garbage, etc. Then the father goes out and much later in the day he returns to the house.
Let us present two possible cases to which the father returns. In one scenario the father enters the house and finds that the children have completed the requested chores but are engaged in a bitter fight between themselves. In the second scenario, the father returns to the home and although the children did not do the chores, they are playing peacefully and treating each other kindly.
Which would you think that the father would prefer? If you have children you can appreciate this. On one side, he wanted the chores performed, on the other side he hates bickering and fighting between his children. Most parents answer that they don't like to see their children fighting, even at the expense of the chores not getting done. But then it depends on how urgent and important the chores are. If the chores were very important, then many preferred seeing the chores done; but if the chores were minor, they preferred the children getting along.
Let us extrapolate from this: G-d is our father. He does not need us to perform any acts for His sake. He can accomplish everything and anything with no effort. There is nothing that He can not do both effortless and quickly. He gave us the Mitzvoth for our sake, that we may come closer to Him.
The purpose of unity is that one Jew should help another Jew with his life and with getting closer to G-d. When we have disharmony and contention, there is no help between Jews. We become islands and isolate those who need help the most. Each of us needs help in some degree both for serving G-d properly and for our menial daily life.
That is why that helping a fellow Jew takes precedence over doing a mitzvah because in reality not only helping a Jew is an important act, it is also a mitzvah, "love your fellow Jew". So when ever you have the ability to help out you fellow Jew, do it! Don't get bogged down with the externalities of life; promoting unity is extremely important. It is contagious and know: it will be with this simple act of kindness that the righteous Messiah will come.
from the September 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine