One of the most oft-quoted visions of the times of Mashiach is a pasuk in Yeshayahu:
(יא:ו) וְגָר זְאֵב עִם כֶּבֶשׂ וְנָמֵר עִם גְּדִי יִרְבָּץ וְעֵגֶל וּכְפִיר וּמְרִיא יַחְדָּו וְנַעַר קָטֹן נֹהֵג בָּם:
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard lie down with the kid; The calf, the beast of prey, and the fatling together, With a little boy to herd them.
It is a vision of animals who were otherwise adversaries, who will be able to live together in peace and tranquility.
However, there is another story that is quite similar, which already took place. Of course, this week we read about Noach gathering all the animals of the entire world onto one Teiva, the Ark.
And, when it comes time to leave the Ark after, as far as we know all the animals survive the journey. In fact, that was the whole purpose of the Teiva, to preserve the species to continue after the flood would be over.
It is based on this that the medrash tells us that while on Teiva, none of the animals attacked each other. Even though there were plenty of animals that were predators and prey, nonetheless, they all got along and none were harmed.
So, asks the Lubliner Rav, Rav Meir Shapira, if that’s true, then why do we look to the Yimos HaMashiach as the ULTIMATE example of unity, where all animals will live together in peace? We already had that example during the time of Noach?
He answers the question with a fascinating Gemara in Zevachim 116a:
At the time of Matan Torah, the nations of the world came to Bilam who was their prophet. And they asked him:
שמא מבול בא לעולם?
Is there a flood coming to the world?
He answered them: No, Hashem promised He wouldn’t do that again. And it isn’t any other type of calamity to end humanity because He promised He wouldn’t do that either!
So they asked him: So what is happening?
And he answered them:
חמדה טובה יש לו בבית גנזיו שהיתה גנוזה אצלו תתקע"ד דורות קודם שנברא העולם, וביקש ליתנה לבניו, שנאמר: יגה' עוז לעמו יתן, [מיד] פתחו כולם ואמרו: ידה' יברך את עמו בשלום;
Hashem has a special gift that He has waited to give, and now He’s giving it to His children, as the pasuk says “Hashem gives strength to His people.
At that moment, the nations responded: Hashem will place His people with peace!
Rav Shapira explains the whole gemara as follows:
- What was it about Matan Torah that made the nations of the world nervous that there was some calamity coming to the world?
We know what happened at Har Sinai? Vayichan Sham Yisrael Neged HaHar – The Jewish People camped at the base of the mountain, and the language is lashon yachid, the singular, VAYICHAN. And says Rashi right there: Why the singular language?
Because they camped K’Ish Echad B’Lev Echad. They camped like one person, with one heart. There was an extraordinary level of unity at that moment.
And so, when the nations of the world saw us so unified, they began to get nervous: What TERRIBLE THING IS HAPPENING!? If everyone is joining together, it MUST be in response to some horrible calamity!
And so, Bilaam tells them, No. There is no calamity, no danger is approaching. Rather, Am Yisrael has come to recognize that the greatest way for them to take on the mantle of the Am HaNivchar, the Chosen People, is to come together to serve HKBH as One. And when we come together to receive the Torah as one, to that the pasuk says, “Hashem Oz L’Amo Yitein! Hashem gives His Nation STRENGTH!
And to that, the nations of the world respond, “Hashem Yivarech Es Amo BaShalom” – That is an UNUSUAL bracha that Hashem has given his Nation, the strength that comes from UNITY.
And it is based on this explanation, that Rav Shapira answers our original question.
Why is the ultimate unity expressed in animals not attacking each other during the Yimos HaMashiach and not the animals who didn’t attack in the Teiva?
Because there are TWO TYPES OF ACHDUS:
1) An Achdus that happens instinctively, out of panic, and out of NEED. A unity that comes when we realize we have NO OTHER OPTION.
This was the achdus, the unity, the shalom of the Teiva. The humans and animals understood that their lives were in danger, and they needed to get along. Attacking each other would not have been advisable because it would put their lives at risk.
2) But then there is a different kind of achdus, a unity, a Shalom that comes from a recognition that every person has a mission, every one of us is needed to accomplish our collective goal, and none of us should feel like we are better than anyone else. An achdus that is not simply a response to danger, or a visceral reaction of fear, but from a place of understanding of who we are meant to be as a people.
That SECOND kind of achdus is the achdus that the navi describes in the Yimos HaMashiach, in the times of Mashiach. A time when animals won’t attack each other, and people won’t either. Why? Because we will all realize that V’Haya Hashem L’Melech al Kol Ha’Aretz, that Hashem is the One Gd, and it is our job as a collective unit to live life according to His will.
We find ourselves at the conclusion of a second week of this unimaginable situation in Eretz Yisrael, and just as the horrors of what occurred on Shemini Atzeres continue to be uncovered, the strength, beauty, and achdus of Klal Yisrael continues to be revealed at unprecedented levels as well.
Some of the stories continue to be paralyzing and horrifying, and some continue to be so sweet and special. I’ll share with you a new sweet and special one:
An army rabbi told the following story: There was a man who arrived at an army base with enough food for all the soldiers on the base. They said thank you so much, we just have to have the rabbi come so we can be sure about the kashrut. The rabbi arrives and asks the man, what can you tell me about the kashrut?
The man responds: “I have only spoken to a rabbi two times in my life! Yesterday and right now! I wanted to cook for the soldiers, but I couldn’t stand the possibility that some of the soldiers wouldn’t be able to eat because of the problem of kashrut. So I asked one of my friends who knows a rabbi to connect me with him, so I could make sure every detail of the meal is 100% kosher!”
And as this war continues, and we know this could potentially be a long haul, we need to all begin to think about not only how we can continue to show unity in the short term, out of necessity, but how we will continue to make unity a priority that is front and center going forward as well. A unity that emanates from a sense that the only way we can accomplish our goals as a people is if we stand together K’Ish Echad B’Lev Echad. A unity that comes from a feeling that WE CAN’T STAND the idea of not being connected to every other Jew. To know that the OZ the strength that Hashem gives us is DIRECTLY related to the Shalom we cultivate amongst ourselves.
So, as we continue to be flooded with beautiful stories of unity across the globe and throughout Eretz Yisrael. As we continue to unite together at rallies, events, and in small gestures towards each other, let’s not allow it to simply wash over us. Let’s allow these moments to penetrate our hearts.
And as this war intensifies, let us each consider for ourselves not only TEMPORARY measures we will take to increase unity in our lives. Let’s begin to consider CONCRETE STEPS we can take to create long-lasting change in our personal lives and as a community. In that way we will show ourselves, Hashem, and the world, that we understand that the OZ, the strength that Hashem offers us all emanates when we stand together B’Shalom.