“…gather together ...” (49:1) “Hayasfu (49:1)”
Towards the end of the Parsha, Yaakov Avinei assembles his sons for their final brachot. It’s remarkable how such different personalities grew up in the same family. By Yaakov’s own description Reuven is powerful and impetuous; Shimon and Levi are violent; Judah is regal: Zevulun is a sailor and businessman; Yissachar is a Talmud chacham; Dan is a judge; Asher is a farmer; Naftali is a nimble servant of God; Yosef is a handsome Tzaddik and leader; Binyamin is a fearless warrior. Despite such differences in personality, Yaakov offers one uniform direction of all; “Hayasfu,” gather together.
Years ago, when I was learning full time in Yeshiva, one of the guys on the shiur decided to leave and get a job. This would have not been so remarkable if the Rosh Yeshiva had not instructed several of us to gather together for a small party for this student, a “Tzeschem Leshalom,” late that Thursday night after Mishmar in the Rosh Yeshiva’s office. To my knowledge the Rosh Yeshiva had never done such a thing before. The event was also remarkable in that the Rosh Yeshiva was ill because he hadn’t given shiur for several days, and that this particular student was very different from the rest of the Yeshiva, both in appearance and Haskofa.
We feasted on chips and soda and sang a few Zmirot before the Rosh Yeshiva spoke. I can still hear his voice in my mind. He told us that Orthodox Judiasm is like a large road that is wide enough to encompass many varieties of legitimate Jewish expression, Yeshivsh, Modern, Chasidic, etc. Whether one sees himself on the left, right, or center road, the important thing is that we are all together on the same road.
The Midrash recounts how Bnei Yisrael crossed the Red Sea via twelve different paths separated by towers of water. Although each tribe had its own private path, each tribe could see with perfect clarity every other tribe during the passage. The Midrash recounts how the experience was frightening and being able to see each other conforted the tribes.
Twelve very different tribes who walked on twelve different parts towards the same destination were able to “see” and derive comfort form each other. Perhaps now we can better understand Yaakov’s directum. “Hayasfu” means not only to gather together, it also instructs us “Ben Adom Lechavero,” to respect and honor one another and avoid Machloket whenever possible. Throughout our history, Klal Yisrael has fallen on hard times only when we have ignored Yaakov’s wisdom. Now as we are witnessing a daily multiplication of anti-Semitism, and as we witness the Oomot Haolam once again happily ganging up on Israel and Klal Yisrael, the importance of this directum cannot be overstated.