What is True Achdus? Could it Really Happen?


rabbi-ron-yitzchok-eisenmanBy Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic, NJ

Lately there has been much fan-fare about achdus, unity, which many have claiming has prevailed amongst us over the summer and during the tragedies which befell us.

There are those who have been very self-congratulatory in their assessment of their perceived manifestations of communal unity over the past two months.

However, before the back slapping gets out of hand and before heads swell to messianic proportions, perhaps a proper a more careful and accurate analyses of the situation is needed.

We should first focus on what exactly is unity?

The dictionary defines unity as:

1. The state of being one; oneness.

2. A whole or totality as combining all its parts into one.

3. The state or fact of being united or combined into one, as of the parts of a whole; unification.

4. Absence of diversity; unvaried or uniform character.

5. Oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement.

Based on these five definitions one cannot deny that the abduction and murder of the three boys in July and the subsequent tragedy of Ahron Sofer in August certainly brought about a sense of ‘harmony or agreement’ in that we were all united in our hope and prayer that each one of these precious Jewish souls would be returned to us unharmed and safe.

Based on that definition there certainly was an “oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number of persons” and assuredly there was a sense of “absence of diversity; unvaried or uniform character”, as Shuls and institutions throughout the Jewish world were in ‘uniform character’ as they davened for the three boys and for Aharon Sofer.

However, that only covers the last two of the five definitions.

What about the first three?

1. The state of being one; oneness.

2. A whole or totality as combining all its parts into one.

3. The state or fact of being united or combined into one, as of the parts of a whole; unification.

Did we become ‘one’ in any way other than davening for the safe return of the boys?

Is that enough to be considered as being one?

Were all of our parts ‘combined into one’?

Did we really all consider ourselves as ‘parts of a whole’?

I presented this question to three individuals whom I respect.

One is a “Brisker” who learnt many years by Rav Avrohom Yehoshua HaLevi Soloveitchik Shlita and is now a prominent Maggid Shiur in America.

The second is a “Mirrer” who besides being a Talmid Chochom who learns most of the day, he is also a successful business man.

The third is an Orthodox psychologist and Talmid Chochom whose children are proud Chareidi yeshiva alumni; some are still ‘learning’ while some are now ‘working’.

All three were in agreement that none felt that the demonstration of tefillah was indicative of any meaningful metamorphosis with regard to the status of unity or disunity Vis a Vis Klal Yisroel.

And despite many well-meaning media pundits who do their best to offer their readership ‘warm and fuzzy’ and ‘all is good’ stories; there was absolutely no change with regard to the divisions within our community.

Nor did they feel that the communal praying signified anything more than a temporary response to the tragedy of the moment and certainly not an indication of any movement toward reconciliation or greater unity amongst the community.

Sorry to burst bubbles, however, we are in Elul and if was not going to be honest with ourselves now, well, “If Not Now, Then When?”

Mind you, I am not against ‘feel good’ stories; we all need them and they serve a purpose.

However, when the dream fades and the crisis passes and we are still in the same state of unity/disunity as we were before the summer then the eventual communal disappointment will outweigh the perceived ‘Achdus’ promulgated for the sake of ‘feel good’ Judaism.

My insightful friend who is both a Talmid Chochom and a professional psychologist remarked in explaining why he did not perceive the reactions over the summer as indicative of ‘real’ Achdus with the following analogy: Imagine you attend a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. In the final inning the Yankees hit a homerun and surprisingly, the game which seemed lost has now been won by the Yankees.

There are 60,000 people who are on their feet cheering and clapping.

Everyone is dancing and hugging; strangers are embracing.

The bleachers are full of African-Americans, Latin-Americans, Asian-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Irish-Americans and all are cheering, clapping giving each ‘high-fives’ and are in joyous celebration.

The next day you open the New York Times, and there in big black font headlines it reads: “New Yorkers Are in Achdus!”

Is that Achdus?

Is the fact that 60,000 are moved by the moment considered Achdus?

No, it is not.

What then is it?

It is many people reacting in the same way to a momentary emotional experience; however, no sane individual would claim that because they celebrated together for a few moments, this varied and diverse group is now considered ‘b’Achdus!

The moment the game ended, everyone boarded the subway and went home; never to see or to interact with the person they hugged and danced with just one hour before!

So too, in the realm of the tragic; we were moved (as we should have been) by the horrific abduction of the three boys.

We were moved to daven for them as we were when he heard that Ahron Sofer went missing.

We responded the way caring Jews responded, we davened and we gave Tzedoka.

However, once the fate of the boys was known and once Ahron Sofer’s body was discovered, everyone boarded their own ‘spiritual subway’ and went back to their lives.

No one is changing their hat or their dress; Chassidim did not join Dati-Leumi yeshivas and Kippa Sruga wearers did not run to purchase Shtreimlach.

Was there caring and compassion? Yes for sure!

Was there communal concern and prayer? Indeed!

Is all that positive? Of course!

However, is that indicative per se of ‘Achdus’?

That I highly question.

Please don’t get me wrong; I am not minimizing the caring and the communal tefillos.

However, I am attempting to provide a ‘reality check’ and not to let something relatively ‘minor’ and ‘expected’ to be elevated to the holy and ethereal to the point of where we may be suffering from communal hubris!

What then is Achdus?

Why is the fact that Jews davened for Jews not considered ‘real’ Achdus?

Here I must give credit where credit is due and I publicly thank Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz for a most inspirational article he wrote in Elul of 5770 (Friday, August 13, 2010).

In the article Rav Lipschutz prepares us for Rosh Hashanah by brilliantly stating:

We need to live for others. We need to become involved with the klal, doing things that we do not necessarily enjoy, even performing acts that we may think are beneath our dignity. The more people need us, the more sunshine and happiness we bring into the world and spread around, the more reason there is for Hashem to keep us here.

Meaning, being a part of the klal ‘the whole’ is the main focus of Elul.

And then Rav Lipschutz defines the true meaning of Achdus:

The challenge of achdus is to subordinate your selfish inclinations and conquer your hubris so that you can work with others for the common good.

What we really need to achieve Achdus is for us as individuals and as communities to “subordinate our selfish inclinations and conquer our hubris so that we can work with others for the common good”.

We talk about Achdus while in reality everyone one of us is sure we have the correct path and the other person and/or community is either just plain wrong (at best) or heretical (at worst)!

As Rav Lipschutz goes on to state:

The Botei Mikdosh were destroyed because we lacked achdus and judged others with a jaundiced eye. To merit the redemption, we have to overcome the temptation to judge people cynically and belittle others who are different, based on superficial, false notions.”

Achdus is not achieved by responding properly to common tragedies (although it is a start).

Real Achdus requires ‘subordination of our inclinations’ and by ceasing to judge people “based on superficial, false notions!”

Yes, we did merit seeing a small step toward Achdus over the summer; however as Rav Moshe Wolfson Shlita pointed out:

“Achdus, achdus,” the Mashgiach repeated. “The entire Klal Yisrael, no matter who they are, participated in tefillah, had a deep interest. This achdus should persist. We shouldn’t let go of it.”

If we really want to take the small window of Achdus which was opened just a crack this summer and capitalize on it, we must force the window wide open with real and concrete steps of meaningful togetherness and unity between Jewish groups.

What steps should this Achdus take?

How should it manifest itself?

That is a difficult question.

However, here is one example of the ‘real’ Achdus which I believe Hashem expects and wants of us:

Yoeli and Steven were an unlikely pair.

Yoeli lived in Williamsburg and worked as a plant manager for a factory near Passaic.

Steven was a stock broker who lived in Passaic.

Yoeli began to daven at my Shul when he realized that if he left before 6 AM he could avoid traffic.

One day he was looking for a place to sit, Steven informed him that the seat next to him was free.

After a month of davening near each other Yoeli asked Steve if they could learn together.

Steven readily agreed and soon the sounds of Torah were being heard from the corner of the Beis Medrash.

They were “The Odd Couple”. Steven grew up in Queens, attended Yeshiva University and had earned a MBA from Wharton Business School in Pennsylvania and was a proud Religious Zionist. Yoeli, on the other hand, grew up in Williamsburg, did not have a high school diploma; yet, ran a multi-million dollar company dealing with everything from production through delivery.

He was schooled in Satmar Hashkafa and had minimal involvement in the outside world. However, Torah is Torah and after a while I was invited to a Siyum which was held at Steven’s house attended by Yoeli and his family.

As the months went by, through the sweetness of Torah, the two were fast becoming good friends; and that is when they approached me.

They had both heard and felt the ‘achdus’ which was generated with the abduction and murder of the three boys.

“Rabbi, this feeling of achdus; we cannot let it slip away. “What can we do to continue and build on this wonderful feeling of unity which was generated? How can we continue and enhance the Achdus?”

I looked at the Yoeli with his Yiddish accented English; and I looked at Steven with his Ivy League command of the language and I thought about their wonderful friendship.

“You both want to really to take a giant leap ahead with Achdus, correct?” They both nodded vigorously.

“Are you really prepared to be avant-garde?” (I had to explain to Yoeli what avant-garde was).

They both readily agreed.

“How about you spend a few minutes of each day learning the following in addition to your Gemara learning? Each day spend ten minutes learning the Torah thoughts (Chiddushim) of the Satmar Rebbe Zt”l on the sugya (topic) you are discussing and the next day learn the novella of Rav Soloveitchik Zt”l on the same Sugya.”

They were both a little shocked as neither had ever been exposed to the other’s Rebbe. However, they wanted Achdus, so somewhat cautiously they agreed.

Fast forward to just before Yom Kippur.

They are both excited. Yoeli never realized the depth of thought of Rav Soloveitchik and Steven never knew how great a Talmid Chochom the Satmar Rebbe was!

They invited me to their next siyum which would take place at Yoeli’s house in Williamsburg.

I arrived and was treated to a wonderful meal filled with achdus and kinship.

However, I was never prepared for what happened at the end of the Siyum.

Yoeli announced that he had purchased a special gift for Steven.

Simultaneously, Steven announced he too had a present for Yoeli.

As Steven opened his gift he saw that Yoeli had given him a framed portrait of the Satmar Rebbe.

And as Yoeli opened his, he received a framed picture of Rav Soloveitchik.

Each one of them beamed as they lovingly held up their newly discovered Gadol picture.

Suddenly Yoeli took his portrait of Rav Soloveitchik and affectionately placed on a shelf right next to the Satmar Rebbe.

And as we all watched in silence as Yoeli set the picture in its place, the footsteps of Mashiach could be heard coming just a little bit closer.

Did this story really happen?

Could it really happen?

Or is it a fantastical fairy tale?

My friends, the answer to this question is ready and waiting for you in your heart; you just have to want to find it.

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. What a beautiful story!! If it is true it is really inspirational. Achdus doesn’t mean that you have to change your derech in Avdus Hashem. Achdus means to realize that there are many derachim and each has to be respected.
    Thank you for this article

  2. We must start teaching our children and Bochurom, that all of mankind, adults and children, Yiddishe and Non-Yiddishe, are precious in the eyes of the Creator, Hashem Yisborach.

    Halevai, that our children should see, that we worry about the well-being of every person and we make an effort, not to exclude any person, from our Teffilohs. Especially when we Daven for Refuah Shleimo, we must never exclude Non-Yidden who are R”L not well.

    That will strengthen our empathy and concern for all Human Beings, for Yidden and for Non-Yidden, regardless of what kind of mother they were born to. That will be M’oirer Rachmei Shomayim.

  3. I actually find this story regarding Achdus quite limiting. It means that there can be no Achdus with Jews whose views one considers to be beyond the pale of acceptability (and there are Jews who have such views). That is tragic.

  4. Achdus firms the spirit. The real achdus is the trust in Hashem. Firming your footsteps by blind inner assimilation is not achdus. When we view some communities, they change their feelings based on the clock. This is false achdus. Any time you get Torah in the eye, you get achdus in the heart. I would think that there are aspects of true liberal givings in an achdus of Hashem’s calling. We must find Torah and bring it to our first calling.

    Torah is the only way to achdus. Its not what you wear but what you see in your spirit. Torah is blessed.


  5. Should the charedim also join together with all the other movements and parties in knesset?

    What do they have in common?

    Name was the last that the srugim ,except for Charda’l,stood for judaism?

    In the past, Likud was invariably better than the Srugim,and worked more or less together with the charedim,should they have joined them?

    Who went out and with declared intent destroyed that Traditional Pact?

    To coalesce together r”l against shabbos and kashrus,Giyur,etc?
    Piece of cake

    The charedim should have worked closer with charda’l in the past
    Hopefully,the lessons will be gainfully employed

    The fault goes both ways,however .Who foolishly tolerated with ample warning, Bennet,Shaked & Co. getting to where they are now and are heading?

    Psalm 97:10
    Achdus for what?

  6. Achdus is the ideal but one forbidden sacrifice principles for “achdus.”

    Psalm 97:10
    Achdus for what?

    as per the rav of Brisk ‘Those who claim to be the greste ohavim,are really the greste son’im’

    Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch was defamed as much as anyone
    as destroyer of achdus

    So it’s more of the same old..

    Those who don the achdus mantle ought to bear that in mind

  7. where have the achdus “pushers” gotten us ?!

    Whatever were the religious displaying achdus the past couple months only to be stabbed in the back again?!

    You desire achdus?

    achdus with whom ? thewhole globe?self hating jews?

  8. the Sinas Chinam today is just as bad-if not worse-then when the second Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed. Wheres the Achdus among Klal yisroel? how can we expect Moshiach to come & the Bais Hamikdosh to be rebuilt without fixing the problem of why it was destroyed? when klal yisroel comes together-on all levels from frum to chassidish to reform etc…-& begs Hashem for Mashiach then we will be answered.

    May it happen very soon

  9. As per Chazon Ish, only through an aggressive tightrope BALANCE between active sinah and ahavah would be repentance of the original tragic sinful root and will finally bring the geulah.

    #13 etc.

    The first Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, despite the multitudes righteous in the generation, BECAUSE there was TOO much TOLERANCE of evil sinners (i.e the guise of achdus)
    cf. Kovetz Ma’amarim

  10. “No one is changing their hat or their dress;”

    It’s the insides that should be worrying

    The american patriots during the

    revolution were decried for undermining


    The maccabees during the

    revolution against the greeks were also decried for undermining


    Read the Kovetz Ma’amarim printed in the ’30s of what was horribly bound to be coming due to too much undue acceptance (and laissez faire “achdus”) for which he was decried

  11. Uh..If It’s about achdus,wellll —

    First they came for the israeli charedim, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not israeli charedi.

    Then they came for the Belgian charedi school system , and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Belgian charedi .

    Then they came for the Quebec chassidic school system, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Quebec chassid.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


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