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National Unity, Individual Importance

Sukkot (Leviticus 22:26-23:44 )

by Rabbi Yehoshua Berman

"Torah tzivah lanu Moshe, morasha kehillas Yaakov, Moshe commanded us Torah, [the] inheritance of the congregation of Yaakov. Va'yehee bishurun melech b'hisaseif rashei am yachad shivtei Yisrael, And there was a King in Yeshurun when the heads of the nation gathered, together the tribes of Yisrael (Devarim 33:4-5)."

These two pesukim immediately precede the brachos that Moshe confers upon each of the Shevatim. The message is quite clear: although each of you have your own unique strengths and blessings, you must all unify as one in pursuit of upholding the Torah and proclaiming Malchus Shamayim in the world. The component parts of Klal Yisrael can and must complement and supplement one another in this pursuit.

Obviously, Torah and mitzvos are equally and completely binding upon the entire Jewish People. However, within this overall framework of Torah and mitzvos, each Sheivet has a unique contribution to make in the attainment and fulfillment of our national task and goal of carrying the banner of Malchus Shamayim and bringing the ohr olam of Ha'Kadosh Baruch Hu into the world.

Perhaps the best-known example of this principle is the partnership between Yisachar and Zevulun. "Rejoice Zevulun in your goings-out and Yisachar in your tents (Devarim 33:18)." The shevatim of Yisachar and Zevulun made a deal that Zevulun would focus mainly on financial enterprise and support Yisachar so that Yisachar could be completely immersed in the learning and teaching of Torah. Because of his financial support of the lomdei Torah of Yisachar, Zevulun can indeed rejoice in his business undertakings, for it serves such a lofty purpose.

This model of everyone making their particular contribution and the reality of interdependence in our overall avodas Hashem underscores the great importance and significance of every single Jew within the national, Torah life of the Jewish People. The particular blessings, strengths, and challenges that each individual Jew has are not only his private possession to utilize, enjoy, or deal with. Rather, they are a gift and assignment from Hashem for him (or her) to utilize and deal with in the common task of living as an Am Kadosh, and the Am Kadosh needs his full participation therein and contribution thereto.

This need of individual contribution and overall interdependence is applicable not only to each Sheivet of Klal Yisrael, but also holds true with each and every individual within the Jewish People.

We don't all wind up filling the glamorous role of either full-time Torah learner/teacher or big-time Torah supporter. Nevertheless, each one of us has unique strengths and talents; unique ways of thinking and feeling, and unique life experiences and challenges. Therefore, each one of us has a unique contribution to make in the overall tapestry of our national avodas Hashem. This unique contribution, though, will not necessarily appear unique on the outside.

Every single individual is a completely unique blend of inborn characteristics, life experiences, inherent and external challenges, particular intelligence level, emotional makeup, failures and triumphs, etc. Each and every individual develops and utilizes his own unique strengths, talents, and ways of thinking and feeling in shaping his particular niche - within the overall framework of Torah and mitzvos - in serving Hashem. Each and every individual works through his unique experiences and challenges to follow ratzon Hashem.

As such, every thought, speech, or action is also completely unique and therefore effects a completely unique accomplishment in the overall process towards tikun ha'olam b'malchus Shakay.[1]

It is true that some people have life situations that practically broadcast the great and unique necessity of their contribution to the Klal and its overall avodah, whereas other people seem to just be of the "rank and file" whose contribution is not so apparent and seemingly dispensable.

This appearance, though, is just one manifestation of the deception of the almah d'shikrah in which we live.

It is not for naught that the Gemara says that in Shamayim Rav Yosef saw an olam hafuch wherein people that were at the top in this world were at the bottom over there, and many people who were at the bottom in this world were at the top in the Olam Ha'Emes!

Appearances can be very deceiving![2]

One of the yeitzer hara's greatest tools in convincing people to not fulfill their potential is by whispering in their ear, "Ah, what's the point! I'll never be like so-and-so. How much could Hashem really care about my little day to day efforts, so what's the point of my trying so hard?"

There is nothing that Hashem created in the world that does not carry a purpose; and if that applies to even the tiniest earthworm, how much more so and how much more so does that apply to every single Jew who possesses a neshama elyonah that was quarried, kavayachol, from beneath the Kisei Ha'kavod! If we would be able to see the tremendous effects that even the most relatively minor of our accomplishments in Torah, teffilah, mitzvos, or tikun ha'middos (etc.) have on this world, and on all of the Olamos Ha'Elyonim, we practically would be left without bechira because we would be beyond awe-inspired by the positive effects that occur because of what we do!

Even those positive efforts that are truly little on the relative scale, in actuality are humungous in their effects - beyond our wildest imaginations[3]. How much more so those positive actions that only appear to us in this almah d'shikrah to be little, but in actuality are huge in their proportions because of the effort required to carry them out!

The yeitzer hara and this almah d'shikrah influence us to view ourselves and our efforts as petty and common, and thus dispensable and not all that important. It is in our best interests to disavow ourselves of this false notion, and supplant it with the true Torah hashkafa as clarified above.

Every single individual Jew is entirely unique, and every single point of effort that he puts forth is of the utmost greatness and significance. Every single individual's contribution to the Klal and its work in this world of serving Hashem and expressing His malchus is absolutely unique and completely indispensable.

Torah is the yerusha of the entire Kehillas Yaakov, and Malchus Shamayim can only be fully expressed and manifest in the world when every single individual within the Nation contributes his part and works together with the Whole in carrying out his unique role in the overall avodah of upholding Torah and mitzvos.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why this parsha is the last parsha in the Torah.

As all of us around the world conclude the last of the chamishah chumshei Torah, we sing and dance in great joy at the completion of the entire Torah. Indeed, the accomplishment alone of going through the entire chamishah chumshei Torah is a great cause for rejoicing.

However, it is reasonable to presume that the content of this last of the parshiyos would contain some lesson that also arouses these feelings of great joy.

The knowledge that "I am important and necessary, my participation and contribution is indispensable, and that even my efforts that may seem small are in actuality truly great" is certainly a cause for rejoicing. One can indeed experience tremendous simcha upon contemplating the great significance one holds in the accomplishment of the purpose for which Hashem created the universe and formed the Jewish People.

This is certainly one of the most essential principles that needs to reside at the forefront of our consciousness - that each and every one of us is inestimably important and significant in the unique contribution that we make towards carrying high the banner of Hashem's Torah; and that only when we all come together as a unified People in the attainment of this goal will the malchus of Hashem shine upon the world with its full brilliance.


1. The particular challenge, for example, that one person has with managing his temper when dealing with his co-workers is not the same challenge as the next person's challenge in dealing with his lusts. Not only that, but it is not even the same challenge as the next person's challenge in managing his temper with his coworkers! Every individual situation - although it may share many similarities with other situations that other people face is ultimately just that, unique and individual. Likewise, each word of Torah that each individual processes through his particularly unique way of thinking and understanding, with his specific angle and way of expressing the idea, brings forth a unique ray of the Torah's light that otherwise would not have been manifest. In addition, each individual's teffilah and bracha is unique because of his unique way of thinking and feeling, and because of the unique experiences and challenges that preceded and led up to it. Not only that, but even within the same person, no two teffilos or brachos are exactly the same because an individual's particular state of thought, emotion, and life situation is unique at any given moment and therefore expresses a wholly unique facet of avdus to Hashem. These are just a few examples of the myriad and practically infinite points of uniqueness that we each have in our avodas Hashem, and each point is like an indispensable thread in the magnificent tapestry of Klal Yisrael's avodah in this world without which the tapestry would be incomplete.

2. Because, in truth, the real yard stick for how much one expresses Kavod Shamayim through his life depends on how hard he had to work to deal with his particular life challenges, as the Mishna in Avos (5:23) says, "According to the struggle is the reward." So, you can have one person who may be fabulously wealthy and supports many great Mosdos Torah but does not need to put forth much internal effort at all to do so. Whereas a certain impoverished individual may have to struggle mightily just to maintain his simchas ha'chaim. It is very possible that, although down here the former will certainly be "on top" and the latter on "the bottom", when they get to the Olam Ha'Emes the situation will be reversed; because, in truth, it is the impoverished individual who powerfully manifested Malchus Shamayim in this world through his internal struggle.
          In a biography of Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky, the following anecdote is recounted. A wealthy man came to Rav Chaim and told him that he wanted to write out a large check to any tzedakah of Rav Chaim's choice l'ilui nishmas the Rebbetzin. Rav Chaim responded by inquiring of the individual's daily learning regimen. Upon hearing how much time the man spent each day on learning Torah, Rav Chaim said, "If you want to do something l'ilui nishmas the Rebbetzin, you should add a half an hour a day to your learning." The man hesitated greatly saying that it would be very difficult for him to do so, and proceeded to strongly urge Rav Chaim to accept his original offer. However, Rav Chaim stood firm and did not want to accept the money. He told the man in no uncertain terms that if he wanted to do something l'ilui nishmas the Rebbetzin then he should do as Rav Chaim prescribed.
          At first glance, this anecdote is very difficult to comprehend. If Rav Chaim would have accepted the man's offer, countless hours of limud ha'Torah on the highest level could have been accrued to the Rebbetzin's credit. The philanthropist's own learning, on the other hand, would have been limited both in quantity and even much, much more so in quality. Why, then, would Rav Chaim insist that the man adding a half hour a day to his own learning schedule was the thing to do l'ilui nishmas the Rebbetzin? It would seem that the resolution is based on the above. For this man to have written out such a check would have been practically effortless. Therefore, the zechus that it would have generated for the Rebbetzin would have been relatively minimal. On the other hand, for this man to have added half an hour a day to his own learning schedule would have required great effort on his part (hence his very strong hesitation!), and therefore would have generated a very great zechus indeed for the Rebbetzin.

3. By way of illustration, imagine a stadium packed with tens of thousands of people. The game has been a difficult and tight ordeal under harsh weather conditions. In the final moments, someone from the home team pulls off a magnificent move that brings about the winning score...and the crowd goes wild!!! The rafters are literally shaking from the eruption of cheering, and the crowd chants the player's name for minutes straight. Can you imagine how that player feels?
          Now imagine not tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands, even millions of Malachim in Shamayim. You are coming home from a long, tiring day of work and you're in quite a mood. Nevertheless, you gird yourself and force yourself to smile at your spouse and children when you walk through the door...AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!!! Thousands upon thousands of Malachei Malah, led by the Master Conductor, are cheering and chanting your name in utter adulation and accolades. The truth is that this description is not an exaggeration, it is actually an understatement! And image if we would be privy to this whenever we are misgaber to do the right thing; would there be any room for bechira? Nevertheless, try to picture this happening when you do something right (which happens throughout the day). It is very, very encouraging!


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