A chassid of the Rebbe Maharash, the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe, asked the Rebbe why he sacrificed himself on behalf of simple Jews. “They don’t appear to have any unique characteristics,” explained the chassid.

The Rebbe did not answer the chassid’s question, and instead turned the conversation to the chassid’s business affairs, asking him several questions about the gem market with which he was involved. After listening to the chassid’s explanations, the Rebbe asked the chassid if he had any of the stones in which he had invested with him. When the chassid answered affirmatively, the Rebbe asked to see the stones.

“They don’t look very special,” the Rebbe told him. “I don’t see any unique characteristics.”

“You don’t understand,” the chassid replied. “To understand gems, you have to be a maven.”

“And to understand neshamos (souls), you also have to be a maven,” replied the Rebbe.

Every neshamah is a gem, for every person’s soul is an actual part of G‑d.

Parshas V’Zos HaBerachah

Rashi explains that the final phrase of the Torah, “l’einei kol Yisrael,” “before the eyes of the entire Jewish people,” refers to the breaking of the tablets containing the Ten Commandments. Our Sages attach great importance to conclusions, explaining that they summarize the content of all the preceding concepts. Why then does the conclusion of the entire Torah mention a subject which seemingly reflects the disgrace of the Jewish people? For the tablets were broken because of the nation’s sin in worshipping the Golden Calf.

This question leads to the inference that this phrase alludes to a positive quality possessed by the Jewish people, a quality so praiseworthy that it is appropriate to conclude the entire Torah.

In another source, Rashi explains that Moses broke the Tablets to protect the Jewish people from G‑d’s wrath. Here we see the unique importance of the Jewish nation. The Torah is the embodiment of G‑d’s will and wisdom. And the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were engraved were “the work of G‑d... and the writing of G‑d,” given to Moses by G‑d Himself. Yet when the future of the Jewish people was at stake, Moses was willing to break the Tablets without hesitation.

Why did Moses take such a step? Because there is nothing — not even the Torah — that G‑d cherishes more than a Jew. The soul of every Jew is “an actual part of G‑d from above.” And therefore the expression, “My son, My firstborn, Israel,” can be applied to every member of our people.

What then is the purpose of the Torah? To reveal this essential quality; to make every member of our people conscious of it, and to provide a medium that will allow this dimension of our being to become manifest. This is the theme underscored by the conclusion of the Torah.

Looking to the Horizon

The last of Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Faith is the belief in the Resurrection of the Dead. Of course, it is an important prophecy and one that we all expect to see fulfilled. But what makes it one of the fundamentals of Jewish belief? Why is it a core issue without which one’s faith is incomplete?

Because at the root of the concept of resurrection is the awareness that the soul is eternal, that it is an actual part of G‑d which is truly alive and therefore, unable to be conquered by death.

Moreover, it teaches that not only is the soul eternal, but that the eternality of the soul affects the body as well and causes the body to be resurrected.

This relates to the Jewish faith as a whole, for the purpose of Judaism is to show us how to infuse the Divine power of the soul into all the physical settings in which we are found, imparting spiritual light into our material being.