Given the seemingly ongoing precarious situation in Israel I would like to share some thoughts on the topic of אַחְדוּת/Achdus that I once heard from one of my rebbeim. The value of Achdus is practically undisputed. All agree that the value of unity is intrinsic and important to Judaism. There are, however, two fundamental misunderstandings when it comes to Achdus.
The first is well known, and that is to confuse unity with uniformity. Indeed, the same play on words exists in Hebrew as well, in confusing אַחְדוּת with אֲחִידוּת. Uniformity, of course, is not necessary at all to achieve the seemingly ever-elusive goal of Achdus. When we speak of Achdus, we speak about living in harmony with one another. Harmony does not mean similarity at all, but rather implies disparate elements coming together to make something more impressive than any single element could muster. Unity and harmony means the ability to coexist and understand one another. Achdus does not dictate that we should agree with everyone, but rather how we are to disagree. Achdus, and Judaism, does not mean giving up one’s individualism.
The second misunderstanding when it comes to Achdus, though, is more fundamental and less well known: What is the actual definition of the word “Achdus”?