Every human being has a relationship with the Divine. Prayer – speaking to G‑d, or asking G‑d for help – is a universal phenomenon. Further, G‑d makes demands on each human being through the Seven Noahide Laws, and on each Jewish man or woman through the 613 mitzvot. The key moment in the relationship between G‑d and the Jewish people took place at Sinai, when G‑d was revealed to every individual in an unprecedented way. That event is the basis of all Jewish law, including the universal Noahide Laws.

But how do we know what the Laws are, and how they are to be applied? At Mount Sinai there was an intense experience and we heard the Ten Commandments. The details of how to keep Shabbat or kosher or any other aspect of Jewish teaching come through a chain of transmission described at the beginning of Ethics of the Fathers: "Moses received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua, and Joshua to the Elders and the Elders to the Prophets…" and so on. Eventually the Torah teachings reached us.

The step in which Moses transmitted his authority to Joshua as the single leader and guide of the Jewish people is found in chapter 27 of Numbers.1 However, earlier in Numbers2 there was another famous step of transmission from Moses. This was the establishment of the Sanhedrin: seventy elders who share the responsibility of leadership.

The background of the founding of the Sanhedrin was a new outburst of complaints by the Jewish people. Why do they have to eat only the Manna? Couldn't they have meat? The Torah describes Moses saying to G‑d that he cannot cope with them any more, he needs help. At this G‑d responded that Moses should gather seventy elders and stand with them at the Sanctuary. Then G‑d would speak with Moses, and transfer some of his "spirit" to the elders, so that they, too, will share in the responsibility of leadership.

The Sages discuss the question of whether or not this transfer diminished Moses in any way. Sometimes a teacher might reach down so far towards his pupil that he himself is dragged down. However, Rashi presents the image that Moses was like "a candle on a candlestick, from which all are able to light."3 This conveys the idea that all can take a flame, but the original candle is not diminished.

Moses was the greatest of all prophets,4 and therefore had the power to give illumination to all without being adversely affected.5 Indeed when two extra people,6 apart from the seventy of the Sanhedrin, became obviously "inspired," Moses said: let the whole Jewish people be granted the Divine spirit!

The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that Rashi does not say that only the members of the Sanhedrin take a flame from Moses' candle. He says "all." There is a sense in which every Jew did so and continues to do so throughout time. The chain of rabbis define the Torah laws, but every individual discovers his or her own reality in their subtle depths.

The Sanhedrin became the channel for communicating Torah teachings to the Jewish people through the generations, teachings later transmitted through the Mishnah, Talmud and the Code of Law. This process gives illumination to all: the Torah and its teachings belong to every Jew, ultimately helping all humanity bond with the Divine.