Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXI, p. 250ff;
Sefer HaSichos 5749, p. 292ff;
Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel, 5752

A Whole That is Greater than Its Parts

The Hebrew language does not lack synonyms, and there are several other verbs (e.g., ויאסוף or ויקבץ) which could have been chosen to begin the verse:1 “And Moshe gathered together the children of Israel.” The word employed, vayakhel (ויקהל), is significant, for it implies the fusion of the people into a kahal or communal entity, far more than a collection of individuals.2

A group which gathers together can also move apart, and even while together, the union is not complete. A kahal, by contrast, represents an eternal3 entity that unites individuals in a new framework, highlighting the fundamental bond that joins them.

The purpose for which Moshe called the people together was to collect donations toward the construction of the Sanctuary. For the Sanctuary could not be built from the private resources of any individual. Instead, it was necessary that the money be donated by the collective, and that the Sanctuary be built by that body. Thus the unity, Moshe established among the Jews extended even into their finances.

By nature, we are all concerned with possessions; our Sages have granted many concessions because “A person is anxious about his property.”4 As such, money is frequently a source of strife. In this instance, however, the people willingly pooled their resources in the construction of a structure which itself reflected their oneness.

Oneness as a Dynamic

The fact that the Sanctuary was constructed by the Jewish people5 in a spirit of unity6 caused the finished structure to be permeated by oneness. This is reflected in the fact that the construction of its various components, e.g., the ark, the altar, the menorah, are not considered as separate mitzvos, but rather as part of the overall charge to construct a dwelling for G‑d.7 Although each of these elements was a separate item, their discrete identities were subordinated to that of the Sanctuary as a whole.8

G‑d’s Presence was revealed within the Sanctuary. There it was overtly manifest that the world is His dwelling, and that all the diverse elements of existence are permeated by His oneness. And from the Sanctuary, light spread throughout the world.9

This leads to a second concept: The Jews are “one nation on earth.”10 The implication is that we are bound together through an internal connection, and this enables us to spread G‑d’s oneness throughout the world.11 For the unity of the Jewish people is an active force rather than a passive state. Establishing oneness among our people spurs the manifestation of G‑d’s unity in all existence.

From Inside Out

What motivates our people to rise above their individual identities? The call of Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe Rabbeinu was the epitome of self-transcendence; every aspect of his being was committed to others.12 And thus he was able to inspire self-transcendence.

Moshe is described as “a shepherd of faith.” He infused the Jewish people with knowledge, enabling us to establish harmony between the different dimensions of our being.13

To illustrate the concept with a story: Rav Yosef Yitzchak, the father-in-law of the Rebbe Maharash, was once asked by his own father-in-law, Rav Yaakov Yisrael of Chirkas, concerning his mode of prayer. Rav Yosef Yitzchak answered that he recited his prayers betzibbur, “with the community.”

Once, however, Rav Yaakov Yisrael of Chirkas sent for his son-in-law and discovered that he prolonged his pray ers, lingering far longer than any congregation would.

“You told me you prayed betzibbur?” he asked.

“I do,” his son-in-law replied. “Betzibbur literally means ‘with the collective.’ After I marshall together the ten components of my soul, I pray.”14

Such efforts are essential to the establishment of unity among our people. For when a person develops inner harmony, he will be more open to others and willing to relate to them as equals. This will encourage the expression of the inner bond that all Jews share.

A person’s Divine service begins with the marshaling of the different aspects of his own being. Afterwards, he gathers together with other men, and then extends this unity until it encompasses every element of existence, showing how the entire world exists to reveal G‑d’s glory.15

The Ultimate Ingathering

The most complete expression of this oneness will come in the Era of the Redemption,16 when “a great congregation (kahal gadol) will return there.”17 Jews from all over the world will stream together to Eretz Yisrael. This ingathering will be more than geographic in nature. G‑d will “bring us together from the four corners of the earth.”18 But more importantly, there will be unity and harmony among us, and this unity will embrace all existence. “The world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the ocean bed.”19

These are not merely promises for the future, but potentials that can be anticipated today. The massive waves of immigration that have reached Eretz Yisrael in recent years are obvious harbingers of the ultimate ingathering of our nation. And even as the physical reality of the Redemption is coming to pass, so too we can have a foretaste of its spiritual elements. We have the potential to establish a new harmony within ourselves, and to spread that harmony among others. And by these efforts to anticipate the Redemption, we will help make it a reality.