Rashi in his second comment on the verse1Moshe was greatly angered [with the band of rebels] and said to G‑d: ‘Do not pay heed to their offering…,’ ” notes the following: “The Midrash says:2 [Moshe said to G‑d,] ‘I know that they have a portion in the communal offerings. Their portion as well should not be accepted by You….’ ”

This needs to be understood. Since these were communal offerings, they had no association with particular individuals. For a community is not a partnership of many individuals, but an entirely novel entity unto itself.

Since an individual sharing in a communal offering is a seeming impossibility, why was Moshe concerned that the rebels’ share of the communal offering not be accepted, if they — like all other individuals — had no such share?

Rashi s statement that “they have a portion in the communal offerings” means the following: Since each individual Jew was commanded to give a half-shekel from which the communal offerings were to be purchased,3 and since, moreover, this donation brought about personal atonement,4 each and every Jew therefore had a portion in the offerings.5

And although it was necessary that each individual “hand over [the half-shekel] ‘extremely well’ ”6 in order to create the new entities known as “communal money” and “communal offerings,” it was impossible to wholly eradicate the individual’s contribution.7

This will be better understood in light of the fact that as explained in Kabbalah ,8 “Holiness does not move from its place,” which as the Alter Rebbe explains,9 means that “even after it [i.e., holiness] has ascended on most high, it is still not totally uprooted from its first place.”

So even after the coins had been elevated to the status of “communal money” they still retained the sanctity generated by the individual donors. Thus, even with regard to communal offerings it is correct to say that individuals “have a portion.” Moshe therefore asked G‑d not to accept the rebels’ portion.

In light of the above, we may better understand why Moshe said “I know (that they have a portion in the communal offerings),” rather than simply saying “they have a portion in the communal offerings.”

The words “I know” uttered by Moshe emphasize that this knowledge is not something readily grasped by most people on their own, but rather emanates from Moshe, the nasi, the leader, of the generation.

For ordinarily the individual and the community are two distinct and even competing entities, similar to individual and communal offerings, each of which is entirely different from the other.10

This difference also descended into the world at large, giving rise to two types of societies: those that stress the needs of the community as a whole, even when these impinge upon the rights of the individual, and those which value the rights of the individual, even if this sometimes means forgoing the communal good.

However, this sharp distinction exists only in the ordinary scheme of things, but not from the perspective of the nasi. For as the leader of the generation, the “nasi being all,”11 he has the ability to unite the individual and the community into one cohesive entity.

This is similar to the two qualities found in the nasi himself: On one hand, he is just an individual; on the other, all his characteristics and deeds relate to the entire community. So too, he is leader not only of the collective whole, but of each individual in particular.

Therefore it was specifically Moshe who could sense that within the communal offerings were felt the unique aspects of each individual.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXIII, pp. 105-111.