In the 1970’s, one of the Lubavitcher chassidim managed to emigrate from Russia and settle in England. At his first opportunity, he flew to New York to visit with the Rebbe. During their meeting, the Rebbe asked him whether he had left his tallis and tefillin in Russia. (At that time, it was forbidden to make or import such religious articles in Russia.)

He told the Rebbe that he had left his tallis there, because it is customary to bury people in a tallis and there were older Jews who would desire that. His tefillin, by contrast, he had taken with him. There were tefillin owned by chassidim of the previous generation available and there was little demand for them by younger Jews.

The Rebbe chided him for his shortsightedness. “In a few years,” he told him, “there will be younger Jews searching for tefillin and there will be none to give them.”

The chassid was amazed. At that time, all the delegations visiting Russia from the Free World were suggesting taking the Torah scrolls from the synagogues and bringing them to America or Israel where they could be used and the Rebbe was telling him that he should have left his tefillin there.

A few years later, he was startled to see how right the Rebbe was. Young Jews throughout Russia began searching for their Jewish heritage and identifying through the observance of mitzvos. It was necessary to smuggle tefillin through customs to satisfy their thirst to fulfill the commandment and not always were the chassidim successful. Every pair of tefillin that reached Russia was treasured.

We do not know when a person’s Jewish identity will be aroused or which factors will spark that arousal. But we can be certain that ultimately, it will be aroused. For every Jew’s soul is an actual spark of G‑d and this G‑dly spark will eventually seek expression.

Parshas Behaaloscha

This week’s Torah reading relates that G‑d commanded Moses to have the Jewish people offer the Paschal sacrifice in the desert. Now there were some individuals who were ritually impure. Hence they could not participate in this sacrificial worship. They approached Moses with a demand: “Why should we be left out? Give us a chance to participate in this service.”

Moses did not answer them himself. Instead, he brought their demand before G‑d who responded affirmatively, telling them that they would be given a second chance to offer the sacrifice a month later. Moreover, this dispensation was not given for them alone. Instead, it became a mitzvah for all generations. When a person was ritually impure or distant from Jerusalem at the time the first Paschal sacrifice was brought, he was given a second chance to offer it a month later.

Often, when discussing this narrative, the commentaries highlight the sincerity of the people who made the request. Because they genuinely wanted to serve G‑d, G‑d gave them the opportunity. Similarly, a person should realize that there is never a reason for despair concerning spiritual matters. If he genuinely desires, he will be given the chance to correct things.

But there is another insight into this story that comes from Rashi’s commentary. Rashi teaches that this passage, like the entire Torah, should have been given to us by Moses, but because these individuals merited, the passage was communicated because of them.

The first point teaches that a person can always pick himself up from a spiritual bottom and advance forward. That is a profound lesson, but eclipsed entirely when we understand the second point; that each one of us can become a medium for the revelation of the Torah.

What is the Torah? Divine truth that is absolute and unchanging. Seemingly, that should be above man’s grasp. Once it has been taught, he can understand it, but to be the medium for its revelation — that appears to be beyond him and dependent on G‑d alone. And yet, we see that these men were able to be the mediums for a passage from the Torah to be revealed.

In truth, however, this is a motif that can — and must — be followed by every individual. Our Sages teach that the name Yisrael (ישראל) — Israel, the name by which the Jewish people are known is an acronym for the Hebrew words:

יש ששים ריבוי אותיות לתורה which means: “There are 600,000 letters in the Torah.” There are 600,000 letters and 600,000 general souls, implying that each soul has a letter in the Torah destined for it to express.

What that means is that each of us is intended to reveal G‑dly truth. Not only can we share the wisdom that comes from the hard knocks of human experience, but we can also rise above our subjective humanity and communicate G‑d’s wisdom to others.

Looking to the Horizon

The texts of Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, explain that the above is one of the dynamic pushing forward the cycle of reincarnation. Every person has lesson (or lessons) from the Torah which he is destined to impart to humanity. His soul will continue to reincarnate until he uncovers that lesson and shares it with others.

On a larger scale, this scheme is also motivating the thrust to redemption, for the same mystic texts explain that Redemption will come as a result of the consummate revelation of G‑dly truth in this world, each person revealing that dimension of G‑dliness that he is destined to. When man has created the setting through revealing the Torah teachings that are within his grasp, Mashiach will come and reveal an entirely new level of G‑dly truth.

As each one of us strives to reveal the G‑dly truth that is his individual destiny, he is not only reaching a level of personal refinement, he is preparing the world at large for its perfection.