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Tuesday, 5 January 2016

The Jewish People are One Body

Daf Yomi Gittin 21

The Syrian army had Jerusalem surrounded.  Food was in short supply and people were starving.  The Prophet Elisha arose and declared, ‘This time tomorrow, food will be cheap and plentiful.’  It sounded wonderful, but nobody could gather the strength to believe him.

Meanwhile, outside the city, there were four lepers who were also starving.  They were reaching their final hours when they reasoned to themselves, ‘Let’s try and ask the Syrians for food.  Either they give us food and we survive, or they kill us, but we would have died anyway.’ 

So with nothing to lose, they enter the Syrian camp.  Lo and behold, the place is empty.  Only hours earlier, Heaven had created a commotion, leading the Syrians to believe that Israel had called in back-up troops from Egypt and the Hittites.

They eat to their hearts’ desires, but then they stop, hit with the thought: ‘What about our starving brothers and sisters in the city?  We must tell them about the abundant food awaiting them!   

Mishnah: We may write a bill of divorce upon any item, such as an olive leaf; or a cow horn, but he must then give her the cow to keep; or the hand of a servant, but he must then give her the servant to keep.
Gemara: It makes sense that he must give her the servant to keep, because you cannot just cut off his hand; but a cow horn, why could he not cut it off and give it to her? 

The Jewish people are one body.  If the hand is hurting, the whole body is in pain.   The lepers couldn’t feast, knowing that their brothers and sisters were writhing in hunger.  They couldn’t eat to their heart’s content, while everyone else was suffering.

Today, many parts of our body are suffering immensely.  We are losing our brothers and sisters from the body of the Jewish people as they drift off, victims to assimilation.  Unfortunately, many committed Jews don’t understand the gravity of the situation.  They’re happy to live with the comfort of knowing that they and their immediate families are spiritually intact.  But when the ‘hand is cut off,’ the entire body feels the pain. 

“You cannot just cut off his hand” and expect that the servant of G-d, the Jewish people, will be the same.  Losing a hand means that a part of us is gone.  Lost.  We are no longer complete.  How much would you give to save your personal hand from being cut off?  Should your spiritual limb be worth any less money, time, and effort?

Every day, you need to ask yourself what you are doing to feed your hungry brother and sister.  How you are ensuring that every limb on the great body of our people remains healthy and active.  What measures you are personally taking to keep our entire body whole.

Invite a less observant person or family for a Shabbos meal.  Join Partners in Torah, the telephone chavrusa (study partner) system that pairs you up with someone less knowledgeable for a weekly Torah study session.  Reach out to your cousin’s or neighbour’s kids to get them more Jewishly involved.  There’s no shortage to the healing work you could be doing for our body!

We are one body.  When the hand is in pain, we don’t amputate, because that would hurt.  We do whatever we can to heal.  May you dedicate your life to keeping the great body of the Jewish people healthy and complete!