Does the individual ever feel lost in relation to the broad needs of the community? Jewish law provides us with teachings concerning the detailed organization of our lives. There is no doubt that if properly carried out, these create a communal or even global atmosphere of great beauty and harmony. But what about me as an individual? Where am I?

The liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt had several goals. One was that they should receive the Torah on Mount Sinai. This took place seven weeks after the Exodus. Another was that they should build the Sanctuary, the prototype of the Temple. This was carried out some time later under close instruction from Moses.

After months of work, finally it was ready. On the first of Nissan, fifty weeks after leaving Egypt, the dedication of the Sanctuary began. It lasted twelve days, and every day was marked by a beautiful ceremony, conducted in turn by the nasi ("prince") of each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

As described in the Torah (Numbers 7:12-83), each day the prince of one of the Tribes brought a magnificent gift to G‑d, as a personal offering from his own possessions. Every gift included a large silver platter, a silver bowl, and a golden spoon filled with incense, and a number of cattle for offerings. In memory of the fact that these gifts were brought during the first twelve days of Nissan, in some communities the relevant passage in the Torah is recited each day.1

The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out an interesting feature in this episode.2 Although each prince brought an identical gift, the Midrash explains that each one had a different intention in his choice. There was a symbolic meaning in the weights of the platter, the bowl and the spoon, and in the number of different kinds of cattle. But for each Prince although the gift was exactly the same, the symbolic meaning was different.3

There is a teaching of the Sages that just as everyone's face is different, so our ideas and approach to life are different.4 Yet G‑d demands what looks like a uniform contribution from all of us. Every Jew must keep all the 613 Commandments, every non-Jew must keep all the seven Noahide laws. Like that of the princes, our "gifts" to G‑d seem identical.

At the same time everyone has a unique contribution without which the world would be lacking. The specific meaning of the details, their inner dimension, is where this individual contribution is expressed. For example, when a person prays he or she is saying the same words as everyone else, but each person's thoughts during the prayer are private and their own.

The episode of the princes teaches us that in the global responsibility of Judaism no individual need feel lost. Everyone is uniquely important; indeed, each person, man or woman, is crucial for the fulfillment of G‑d's plan for the world.