At the public address at which he formally accepted the leadership of the Lubavitch movement, the Rebbe spoke of his father-in-law, the Rebbe Rayatz, R. Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, and his efforts to bring Mashiach. In particular, he mentioned the Torah scroll that was being composed “to greet Mashiach.” The Rebbe Rayatz had asked that money be collected from people all over the world to purchase letters in this Torah scroll. “The Rebbe Rayatz,” the Rebbe asked, “could have paid for the Torah scroll from his own funds. Why did he seek to collect money from the chassidim?”

In reply, the Rebbe related that G‑d commanded Moses to build the Sanctuary and it is always referred to as the Sanctuary of Moses. In fact, however, Moses did nothing in the construction of the Sanctuary. He gave over its construction to the Jewish people. Although it was his mission, as a leader he desired to share that purpose with others.

The same concept, the Rebbe explained, applies with regard to the Rebbe Rayatz’s efforts to bring Mashiach. He did not want bringing Mashiach to be his own private mission, but one shared by the entire Jewish people. This is the function of a Jewish leader: to endow his people with a long range vision that lifts them above their own limited perspective.

Parshas Vayakhel

This week’s Torah reading begins “And Moses called together the children of Israel.” Vayakhel, translated as “called together,” is related to the term kahal which means “collective.” A kahal is not merely a group of individuals. It is a communal entity that far surpasses the sum of its parts. Let’s take the most common example of this in Jewish Law, a minyan. We are not merely speaking about ten individuals getting together. For the addition of the tenth person draws down G‑d’s presence, something infinitely greater than could be achieved by the nine people on their own. Similarly, the Jewish people are not just a collection of individuals; they are a kahal.

How is a kahal formed? How are people motivated to go beyond their individual self-interest and take on the identity of the collective?

That’s the job of Moses. A Jewish leader gives his people a collective identity by endowing them with a mission and a sense of purpose that lifts them above their personal selves. A Moses is always focused higher. He sees a greater goal and a more encompassing ideal than people at large. But he is not merely a loan voice in the wilderness. He communicates. He makes others aware of this purpose and motivates them to commit themselves to it. As they work together to achieve this goal, bonds of unity are forged. Not only do the people see themselves as abstractly bonded by a common mission, unity becomes a part of life as they cooperate in the implementation of these goals.

As an example, let’s take the story of this week’s Torah reading. Why did Moses call the people together? To build the Sanctuary, making a dwelling for the Divine presence. This was Moses’ goal. It was something that the people alone could not envision; only Moses could. He had spent four months — 3 periods of 40 days each — on Mount Sinai with G‑d. Upon his return, he sought to share the relationship with G‑d that he had established with the people at large by making a place for G‑d’s presence to dwell. This would redefine the identity of the people; they would clearly become G‑d’s nation.

As soon as he descended the mountain the final time, Moses set about mobilizing the people toward this objective. First of all, he asked them to make financial sacrifices, donating gold, silver, and other valuable objects. Then he instructed them how to work together to build the actual Sanctuary and make the ideal tangible reality.

The people responded to his request with enthusiasm, eagerly giving of their precious objects for this holy purpose. Moreover, they all volunteered to help in the Sanctuary’s construction, working together for this sublime goal. Little tasks — weaving wool and carving wood — took on far greater significance. For months, the attention of the people was focused on this one goal: building the Sanctuary and creating a dwelling for G‑d.

As the Torah relates, that objective was consummated and G‑d’s presence filled the Sanctuary. But in the process of achieving that goal, another important intent was accomplished; the people were fused together into a new collective entity.

In truth, these two purposes are interrelated. For G‑d’s presence can only rest in a setting of oneness.

Looking to the Horizon

The stories in the Bible are not intended to be read merely as history, but also as guidelines for our conduct here and now. We also have a goal of causing G‑d’s presence to dwell in the world. That is what the coming of Mashiach is all about; that instead of conceiving of the world solely in materialistic terms, we will all appreciate G‑dliness. It will start with the rebuilding of the Temple, but the ultimate purpose is more encompassing. For through the indwelling of G‑d’s presence in the Temple, the awareness of Him will spread throughout all existence.

To achieve that goal, there must be people who bond together with that objective in mind. This purpose — and not their individual satisfaction and success — becomes the fundamental motivation for their lives. Like the Jews who built the Sanctuary, they should be willing to make sacrifices, giving of their financial resources to achieve this goal. They should also be ready to work with others to perform whatever tasks necessary to transform the ideal into reality.

The ultimate purpose of these efforts — the revelation of G‑dliness in the world through the coming of Mashiach — is certainly a goal that motivates identification. But in the process of achieving that goal, these individuals will also realize a significant by-product. As they dedicate themselves to this higher purpose, they will be nudged out of their self-concern. And when they stop living for their own selves, they will be able to perceive others. This will create an atmosphere of unity among them, making them more fit to bring about the revelation of G‑dliness in the world.