"Why are there so many different
types of Orthodox shuls in Israel? Dozens ethnic groups, an even larger
number of Chassidic dynasties, different 'Religious-Zionist' movements,
lots more that defy brief catagorization, and each has their own shul.
The shades of distinction between many of them seem so slight. Now that
they are in the Jewish Land, why don't they assimilate and join each
other instead of competing?"
Just because people pray in different shuls doesn't mean they don't
get along. As long as there have been Jews, there have been a wealth
of approaches and differences of opinions. But just because we are capable
of interacting without problem doesn't mean the diversity should be
obliterated. Who would want a large garden with only one kind of flower?
Each of the twelve tribes had its own special manner of worship. These
distinctions were of deep significance, but they were not always easily
apparent to an outside viewer. The princes of each tribe brought exactly
the same dedication offerings, yet the Torah bothers to repeat the identical
long list of components twelve times [Num. 7:12-96]. It takes 85 verses!
Why do we have to endure this seemingly monotonous repetition? The Oral
Teachings help us to see that the similarity is only superficial. The
intentions of each tribe differed so greatly, both in general and in
each particular detail, that from a spiritual perspective it can safely
be said that the twelve offerings hardly resembled each other!
During the Mishnaic era, the schools of Hillel and Shammai had numerous
disputes in Jewish Law. The Talmud points out that the opinions of Shammai
and his adherents were nearly always strict, while those of Hillel and
his followers were tempered by a recognition of human frailty. The cause
of their contrasting approaches is explained in Kabbalah by tracing
their soul roots to the divine attributes of Chessed and Gevurah
[Kindness and Severity-i.e., mercy vs. justice]. Although the untrained
eye may regard some of their disputes to be trivial, a more penetrating
glance reveals, again, that seemingly slight distinctions are in reality
a reflection of underlying deeper essence.
Sixteenth century Tsfat boasted one of the most influential halachic
authorities in the last 1000 years, one of the very great masters of
scriptural interpretation and one of the all-time seminal figures in
the development and spread of the mystical teachings. R. Yosef Caro,
R. Moshe Alsheich, and R. Yitzchak Luria ["Ari"] respectively
each had many followers. The ARI explained that the discrepancies in
their approaches and abilities stemmed from their souls being rooted
in different spiritual worlds. Since they viewed each other's accomplishments
from this deep perspective, there was no rivalry among them. On the
contrary, each made a point of learning from the others. Nevertheless,
it is unthinkable that these three great men, or any other leaders at
the time, ever entertained the thought of merging the numerous shuls
and yeshivas that had proliferated throughout the city.
Not only is it unneccessary for Jews to give up their old customs upon
moving to the Holy Land, in many circumstances, such as an entire congregation
arriving together, it would be improper to do so. Yes, it may seem perplexing
that, for example, here in Tsfat today more than 80 shuls serve a population
of less than 25,000. Nevertheless, let us glory in the kaleidoscope
of vivid colors in our shared garden, and not carelessly uproot precious
species in a pursuit of bland conformity.