Beha’alotcha- The Unity of the Chatzotzrot

After several chumashim written as the Jewish People were given the Torah at Mt. Sinai, our sedra sees the Jews finally getting up and moving in the direction of Eretz Yisrael. Before they leave, a few final and practical instructions are given including Pesach Sheini, guidance in interpreting the amud ha’anan into travel instructions, and, finally, the chatzotzrot:

וַיְדַבֵּר ה’ אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר: עֲשֵׂה לְךָ שְׁתֵּי חֲצוֹצְרֹת כֶּסֶף מִקְשָׁה תַּעֲשֶׂה אֹתָם וְהָיוּ לְךָ לְמִקְרָא הָעֵדָה וּלְמַסַּע אֶת הַמַּחֲנוֹת

And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Make for yourselves two trumpets of silver… and they will be a signal to the nation to travel in camps(במדבר י:א-ב)

Just as the amud ha’anan lifting was a sign for the Kohanim to pack camp and get ready to move, the chatzotzrot were a means for the Jewish leadership to let the Yisraelim know it was time to move on. As we read on, we see that different variations of blasts would signal tell different things to the people- to gather for war, to start moving, for the tribal leaders to gather, for all of the people to congregate. These silver trumpets served as an ancient public address system, to convey the most important messages to the people in efficient way, one that may even put Edwin Jensen and Peter Pridham’s early loudspeaker system of the 1910’s to shame.

As we read on, the section describes the purpose of the chtatzotzrot even after the Jews finish their sojourns and enter Eretz Yisrael

וְכִי תָבֹאוּ מִלְחָמָה בְּאַרְצְכֶם עַל הַצַּר הַצֹּרֵר אֶתְכֶם וַהֲרֵעֹתֶם בַּחֲצֹצְרוֹת וֲנִזְכַּרְתֶּם לִפְנֵי ה’ אֱלֹקֵיכֶם וְנוֹשַׁעְתֶּם מֵאֹיְבֵיכֶם
And when war will come to your land from the enemy which had tormented you, you will blow the trumpets, be remembered by Hashem your G-d, and you will be saved from your enemies

בְיוֹם שִׂמְחַתְכֶם וּבְמוֹעֲדֵיכֶם וּבְרָאשֵׁי חָדְשֵׁיכֶם וּתְקַעְתֶּם בַּחֲצֹצְרֹת עַל עֹלֹתֵיכֶם וְעַל זִבְחֵי שַׁלְמֵיכֶם וְהָיוּ לָכֶם לְזִכָּרוֹן לִפְנֵי אֱלֹקֵיכֶם אֲנִי ה’ אֱלֹקֵיכֶם
And on your days of celebrations and your holidays and Rosh Chodesh you will blow on the trumpets while bringing your karbanei olah and shlamim, and they will be a reminder before Hashem that I am Hashem your G-d (י:ט-י)

So, we see two additional times that the chatzotzrot are blown, without any connection to signaling the nation, whether to gather or to travel or to settle. When it’s wartime, and the Jewish army is about to begin battle, Jewish leaders blow the trumpets, and when it’s time to celebrate, and we are all gathered, the same is done. What could be the symbolism in this?

The chatzotzrot symbolize Hashem’s presence, influence and assistance in our lives. For the Jews of the desert, they were blown every time they would travel, with the amud ha’anan or amud ha’aish miraculously guiding them to their destination. It is with this trumpet that the Jews of the desert would gather for war, and it is with this trumpet that these same Jews defeated many enemies, against all odds. When the chatzotzrot are blown before war in Eretz Yisrael, it is to remind us that Hashem, our all-powerful G-d who protects us every day and has led our people to victory for thousands of years, is with us. When we remember Hashem, He remembers us as well, and we hopefully merit “וְנוֹשַׁעְתֶּם מֵאֹיְבֵיכֶם.”

Later on, when the battle is won and it’s time to celebrate, we once again blow the chatzotzrot, but this time as a “זכרון,” to the greatness that Hashem has done for us. When we include these increidble and miraculous victories in our national celebrations, they take on another dimension of שמחה, and change the way that we experience our קרבנות and see Hashem.

The lesson that we can learn from this is clear: In better times and more difficult times, we must remember the chatzotzrot, and that Hashem was with us, is with us, and will always be with us. He will always save us, and let us live to see the next “יום שמחתכם,” even if it doesn’t seem possible. He is there for us, and we must always remember this.

On Wendesday, the State of Israel celebrated its first annual National Unity Day. This holiday was established as an official holiday on the calendar in honor of the incredible unity that came about during the 18 days when we all waited for news of Naftali, Gil’ad and Eyal (Hy”d). In the spring of 2014, the Jews of Israel were at each others’ throats, arguing over politics, the army, and religion, among other issues. However, when we heard that three boys didn’t return home, all of our differences disapeared and we became one people, hoping for their return. Those who daven every day prayed even harder in the merit of their return. Those who don’t, began to daven, even if they didn’t understand why, in the hope of getting our boys home. This experience was so powerful that nearly every type of Jew (there were some small exceptions, of course) stopped their disagreements with one another, literally overnight. In honor of this incredible achdut, and in the hope of creating something positive from a very negative experience, Unity Day was born.

Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat, in cooperation with the Frankel, Sha’ar and Yifrach families, created the Jerusalem Unity Award, an annual prize given to a few individuals who live their lives in this same spirit of unity. On Wednesday, at the first Unity Award ceremony, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of England, shared a few words on unity. He began by reminding everyone present that all of the Jewish People’s problems, starting from the abduction of Yosef, through the destruction of our two Temples, until more recent times, all came about from sin’at chinam, the exact oppposite of achdut. Rabbi Sacks concluded his speech with a well-known Jewish joke: “When there are two Jews anywhere, there are also three shuls there, but there is only one heart. We don’t need to agree with our fellow Jews, and we don’t even need to like them. We just need to care about them, to love them.” This is the unity that we all saw last summer, as every part of our nation came together to support the families of these three boys and pray for their safe return.

I believe that last summer’s kidnapping served as a blowing of the chatzotzrot for us, amid some of the lowest levels of achdut seen in recent years. But, when we heard the news of the abduction, we all forgot our differences and united as one people. Unfortunately, our prayers for our three brothers were not answered as we had hoped, and Eyal, Naftali and Gil’ad (Hy”d) never merited to see the unity and peace that they created in Am Yisrael. Nonetheless, when we listened to the sound of the chatzotzrot and we remembered our unity and our G-d, it became clear that we had personally merited a fulfillment of “וְנוֹשַׁעְתֶּם מֵאֹיְבֵיכֶם,” when the IDF learned of Hamas’s tunnels from Gaza and their plot to infiltrate Israel and wreak a terrible attack on Rosh Hashana. In the time of war over the summer, we listened to the chatzotzrot and we can see that we were truly remembered before Hashem, and saved from our enemies.

On Unity Day, a day of mixed feelings of pain and hapiness, we once again “blew the chatzotzrot,” remembering the three boys whose deaths caused such a change to Am Yisrael. But, today is not Unity Day, and it is not a “יום שמחתכם.” Today is a normal day, and we must carry the power of the chatzotzrot, of the unity that we experienced last summer and remembered on Wednesday, into our lives every single day.

With Hashem’s help, in the merit of this unity, we will all remember Hashem’s power and the miracles He has done for us, both in Midbar Sinai and more recently, and see a complete fulfillment of “וְנוֹשַׁעְתֶּם מֵאֹיְבֵיכֶם” with the coming of the Geulah, very very soon.