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We Are All G-d's People

We Are All G-d's People

Shabbos Parshas Vayikra, 5th Day of Nissan, 5750 1990

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1. This week’s Haftorah begins with the declaration, “I have created this people for Myself; they shall relate My praise,” a statement which expresses the unique nature of the Jewish people. Each Jew, man, woman, and child, at every time and in every circumstance, is a member of G‑d’s nation, created by G‑d for a distinct purpose, to “relate My praise.”

Thus, the verse communicates two fundamental concepts: a) that the Jews are a unique nation; b) that they have been charged with a special service, “relating G‑d’s praise.” Significantly, the Mechilta focuses on only the first clause of the verse. This implies that, independent of the Jews’ service of G‑d, they are His people. This is problematic for the entire purpose of the Jews’ existence is to serve G‑d as the Mishnah states, “I was only created to serve My Creator.”

There is another difficult point: The verse continues: “They shall relate My praise.” This declaration is made as a definitive statement, without leaving room for any doubt.

To explain these points: The connection between the Jews and G‑d is described with the metaphor of a king and his people. This concept is expressed in our prayers on Rosh HaShanah and similarly, in the narratives of the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah.

In Chassidic thought, it is explained that the relationship between a king and his people represents the deepest and most essential bond possible. Our Sages declare: “There is no king without a people.” This implies that a king’s very existence as king is dependent on the people. Conversely, a people are a people only when they have a king. This implies that over and above the relationship established through the commands given by the king to his people, there must be a fundamental connection between them. Thus, the Midrash states, “Accept My sovereignty (i.e., establish this fundamental bond) and afterwards, I will issue decrees upon you.”

The verse from the Haftorah clearly states G‑d created the Jews as His nation. Thus, at the giving of the Torah, when the Jews accepted G‑d’s sovereignty, they made an eternal statement of their identity. From that time onwards, whoever is born as a Jew or converted according to halachah is part of G‑d’s people, an integral element of that nation who — because “there is no king without a people” — bring about G‑d’s kingship. Every Jew, regardless of his level of observance, is still a fundamental part of our people as our Sages declared, “A Jew — even though he sins — is still a Jew.”

There are two seemingly opposite aspects in the relationship between a king and his people: On one hand, the king is on an incomparably higher level than the people. Indeed, the concept of a king is only appropriate to describe a ruler over common people and not over advisors and officers.1 Thus, there is a con­cept of separation and distance from the king.2 On the other hand, the king and the people must share a fundamental com­mon denominator. For example, a king must rule over other hu­mans. A person who owns many animals is not considered a king.

In regard to the relationship between the Jews and G‑d, the common factor is not only the Jews’ souls which are “a part of G‑d.” Rather, each Jew as he exists in this world, body and soul, shares a commonalty with G‑d. His potentials reflect the ten sublime sefiros and even his physical form was created to reflect the letters of G‑d’s name.

This concept is implied by the Tanya which describes the Jewish soul as “an actual part of G‑d.” The expression “part of G‑d” is a quote from the book of Iyov and the word “actual” is the addition of the Alter Rebbe. The Hebrew word for “actual,” mamash, is also related to the word mishush meaning “touch.” This implies that the essential G‑dliness of the soul becomes enclothed within the Jews’ body to the extent that it can be seen in even his physical activities. Even his seemingly mundane acts are expressions of his fundamental G‑dly life-energy.3

This applies even to a Jew who is not observant. The Rambam writes that every Jew (even one who protests to the contrary), desires to be part of the Jewish people, fulfill mitzvos, and separate himself from sin. If he does not do so, it is only because his evil inclination forces him to act otherwise. He truly desires to fulfill G‑d’s will and it is only an external factor which is holding him back from doing so.

This essential desire has been revealed by the many Jews throughout the centuries — even those who were not observant — who actually sacrificed their lives to sanctify G‑d’s name. When it comes to the performance of Torah and mitzvos, it is possible that “the spirit of folly” can prevent a Jew from realizing that through every sin, he becomes separate from G‑d. Thus, he may remain unaware of how he is separating himself from his own essential will. However, were this to be explained to him in a manner in which he understood, he would be willing to sacrifice himself for every aspect of Torah and mitzvos. Thus, the Jews as a nation — despite the differences between them — are a single, indivisible entity united by their essential commitment to G‑dliness.

The existence of such a nation “relates G‑d’s praise.”4 Independent of any service which a Jew performs, the very fact of his existence is an expression of G‑d’s praise. This dimension is expressed in the eternal existence of the Jewish people. Despite the fact that the Jews are “one lamb among seventy wolves” and have faced the most severe forms of persecution, they have endured throughout the course of history, while nations greater and more powerful have disappeared. G‑d has invested a dimension of eternality within the Jews and their continued existence is thus, an open expression of Divine power.

In every generation — not only in the era of the exodus or while the Beis HaMikdash was standing, times when G‑dliness was openly revealed — but even while the Jews are in exile, they are G‑d’s nation and their existence “relates His praise.”5

In particular, this applies today, only a generation after the awesome Holocaust which threatened to utterly annihilate our people. The fact that our people were able to endure that terrible period and continue, giving birth to a new generation which maintains the existence of the Jews (regardless of their spiritual level) reveals G‑d’s presence within our world. Each Jew is a living miracle who expresses, by virtue of his very existence, the praise of G‑d.

Furthermore, each Jew is a heir to the entire spiritual heritage of our people. There is a golden chain extending back to the forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov. Every Jew in the present generation is a representative of the entire collective of our people as they have existed throughout the course of history.

The essential nature of every entity seeks expression. Since G‑d has invested an essential aspect of His Being within the Jews, therefore, “no Jew can — or desires to — separate himself from G‑d.” This essential desire will ultimately seek to express itself in a Jew’s behavior and bring him to “relate G‑d’s praise” through the service of Torah and mitzvos.

The above concepts are also reflected in this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Vayikra (for there is a thematic connection between the beginning of the Haftorah and the beginning of the Torah reading). Our Sages explain that the opening verse of the portion, “And He called to Moshe” reflects the dearness with which G‑d relates to the Jewish people. This dearness is of an essential nature as reflected by the use of the pronoun “He” instead of any of the names for G‑d. This refers to a level too transcendent to be identified with a name.

Similarly, the command which follows, “A man from you who will offer a sacrifice...” reflects the uniqueness of the Jews. The Hebrew word for “man,” adam, is related to the word adamoh, “I resemble,” and thus refers to the verse, “I will resemble the One above;” i.e., man is representative of G‑d, as it were.

2. The awareness of the uniqueness of each Jew must effect the manner in which we relate to him. When one encounters a Jew who, for whatever reason, does not (at present) observe Torah and mitzvos, one should relate to him as an integral part of the nation created by G‑d to relate His praise.

Surely, this applies to the Jews in the present generation, who as explained above, are each “living miracles,” examples of how despite the awesome Holocaust perpetrated in the previous generation, the Divine eternality imparted to the Jews allows them to survive. Furthermore, to a large extent, they are not responsible for their lack of observance. They are like “children captured by the gentiles,” who were never given an opportunity to learn about their Jewish heritage in a full manner.

We must seek to reach out to these individuals and motivate them to increased Torah observance. Since, as explained above, they were created “to relate G‑d’s praise” and they have an essential desire to fulfill Torah and mitzvos, efforts should be made to bring this desire into revelation. We must explain, in a pleasant and comfortable manner the importance and dearness of Torah and mitzvos and how they will intensify one’s connection with G‑d.

Needless to say, the opposite path should not be taken: A person cannot remain involved with his own concerns alone (even when they are in the realm of holiness), isolating himself so that these other Jews (whom he feels are on a lower level than he is) should not disturb his service.

This is the direct opposite of the commandment, “Love your fellowman as yourself”6 and the opposite of the concept of eravos, “mutual responsibility.” When one appreciates that one has the potential to bring another Jew closer to G‑d, one must realize the immensity of this responsibility and make every effort to use this opportunity to the fullest extent possible.

The Jewish people are a single unified entity. Our Rabbis explain that the word Yisrael, “Israel” in Hebrew is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning, “There are 600,000 (the number of Jewish souls) letters in the Torah.” A blemish in a single letter of a Torah scroll disqualifies the entire scroll, including even the Ten Commandments. Similarly, the status of every single member of our people has an effect on the people as a whole. Thus, one’s efforts on behalf of one’s fellow Jews are also integrally related to one’s own welfare.

From the above, we can appreciate the importance of speaking positively about every Jew and the detrimental effects of speaking critically. The Jews are G‑d’s nation. Therefore, anyone who has true fear of G‑d will also fear to criticize the nation who are His children and subjects. Criticizing or speaking unfavorably about any portion of the Jewish people is like making such statements against G‑d, Himself. Zechariah the prophet relates that a person who strikes a Jew is like one who strikes G‑d in the eye. Since “a king cannot exist without a people,” the appreciation of G‑d as king of the world is dependent on His people, the Jews, and an attack against them, heaven forbid, is an attack against Him.

Surely, this applies when these statements are made in public and publicized to the extent that they are picked up by the gentile press. In particular, this applies when the person making the statements is a public figure with influence on other individuals.7

If a person made such statements in public, he must repent and do so in a manner that all of those who heard the negative statements, hear how he regrets making them. We find that when Yeshayahu criticized the Jews — even though they were deserving of such criticism — he was punished. The Bible relates this incident to us to “open the way for the repentance,” so that anyone who makes such statements should appreciate the need to correct his behavior.8

The Jews must know that these words of criticism will have no effect. On the contrary, G‑d will bless the Jews in both material and spiritual matters. This is enhanced by the present season, “the season of our freedom,” the holiday of Pesach on which G‑d established the Jews as His nation. The very nature of this month elevates the Jewish people. The name of the month Nissan contains two nunnim, interpreted by our sages as a reference to “miracles of a miraculous nature.” Nissan lifts the Jewish people up to a level which befits “G‑d’s nation.” This is particularly true in the present year, 5750, “a year of miracles.”

[A practical connection should be made between the concepts explained above, the dearness of every Jew, and the Pesach season. Efforts should be made to supply every Jew with his Pesach needs by contributing to maos chittim, the tzedakah intended for this purpose.]

Our Sages declared, “In Nissan, our people were redeemed and in Nissan, they will be redeemed by the Messiah.” May this be in the immediate future.

3. [Trans. note: The Rebbe Shlita also spoke on the importance of maintaining possession of every inch of Eretz Yisrael, explaining that:] Just as the Jews are G‑d’s chosen people, Eretz Yisrael, is G‑d’s chosen land, a holy land given to the Jewish people as an eternal inheritance. The land of Israel was given to the entire Jewish people, those living on the land at present, and those who are presently living in the diaspora. No one is entitled to give up any portion of Eretz Yisrael to gentiles. Maintaining possession of these lands is the only path to peace. Succumbing to the pressure to surrender them will only invite additional pressure, weakening the security of the Jewish people and exposing them to danger. Heaven forbid that the government in Eretz Yisrael should consider surrendering any portion of Eretz Yisrael which G‑d has granted us.

Footnotes
1.
Nevertheless, through the common people’s acceptance of the king, the king is lifted to a level high above that of his officers to the extent that they also must relate to him in a manner which befits his majesty. Indeed, from the king’s standpoint, there is no difference between the officers and the simple people.
2.
This concept of separation is reflected in the connection between the Hebrew word for nation, עם and the word עוממות which means “smoldering,” i.e., coals which do not have a blazing flame. This refers to the Jews as they exist souls within a body where there is — on an apparent level — a distance between them and G‑dliness.
3.
This essential connection makes the Jews fit to serve G‑d through Torah and mitzvos. G‑d created them in this manner so that they will express their uniqueness through service of Him. Nevertheless, as explained above, the essential bond exists independent of this service.
4.
We find a similar concept in the verse, “the heavens relate G‑d’s glory.” The very existence of the heavens is an expression of G‑d’s glory.
5.
This is alluded to by the words, “this nation,” in the verse quoted from the Haftorah. The word “this” refers to a concept which is openly revealed to the extent that one can point one’s finger at it. In each generation, a person can point his finger at the Jews and see how they are G‑d’s nation.
6.
Before we pray for our needs and the needs of our families, we are obligated to accept the fulfillment of this mitzvah.
7.
We find a parallel to this concept in Torah law: A chazan who hates even one member of the congregation should not serve as the leader of communal prayer.
8.
It was out of character for Yeshayahu to have made such statements. He was a prophet who was granted a vision of the Divine merchavah. The only reason he happened to do so was so his behavior could serve as an example for others. Indeed, we see that after this instance (Yeshayahu, chapter 6), the majority of his prophecies were positive in nature, concerning the Messianic redemption.
A free translation from a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.
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