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Community & Individuality

Community & Individuality

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A Torah scroll contains 304,805 letters, each handwritten in black ink on parchment by a highly trained scribe. If a single letter is missing or deformed, the entire scroll is unfit for use.

Another important law regarding the Torah scroll is that each of its letters must be ringed by a blank strip of parchment. Should a letter touch its fellow even by a hair, thereby violating the "white space" between them, again, the entire scroll is disqualified from use until the error is corrected.

Every Jew is a letter in G‑d's scroll. Our sages tell us that if a single Jewish soul had been absent from Sinai, the Torah could not have been given to us. The people of Israel comprise a single, interdependent entity; the lack or deformity of a single Jewish soul, G‑d forbid, would spell a lack or deformity in us all.

But equally important is the inviolable "white space" which distinguishes each and every one of us as a unique individual. Often, a strong sense of community and communal mission obscures the differences between its members, blurring them to a faceless mass. Says the Torah: true, my hundreds of thousands of letters spell a single integral message. But this message is comprised of hundreds of thousands of voices, each articulating it in its own particular manner and medium. To detract from the individuality and uniqueness of one is to detract from the integrity of the collective whole.

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