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Home » Vayikra Parshah

Vayikra: Every Jew is Crucial

Submitted by on March 2, 2006 – 2:37 amNo Comment | 2,483 views

Why?

“Rabbi,” he said to me, “Why is it that in some Jewish circles I am seen as a lesser Jew? I was born to a Jewish mother, but I don’t practice very much. Am I any less Jewish than other Jews?”

I could see the pain in his eyes as he repeated the hurtful words, and I too felt a twinge of sadness. Trying to comfort him, I said, “Try to forget what they said. You don’t live there and you don’t attend those synagogues. Luckily you live in a more understanding community.”

“But,” he rightly protested, “the Jewish people are a single entity and if some Jews are disconnected from others, I cannot relax simply because I am not immediately affected.”

His words cut right to the heart of the matter and I acknowledged that he was correct.

We are one people, one block, and if one piece is missing, the entire block is affected. It is true that all Jews are equally obligated to observe the Torah. But it is also true that those who don’t observe are full and equal members of the Jewish community. After all, every Jew is G-d’s cherished child. Every Jew is an integral part of the chosen nation.

Diamonds

Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, was known to remain standing for hours to greet Jews from all walks of life who lined up to see him. He was an elderly man, no longer endowed with the energy of youth, and someone once asked him, “Don’t you tire of standing for so many hours?”

“Every Jew is a diamond,” the Rebbe replied. “One never tires of counting diamonds.”

The Rebbe’s response seemed more polemic than practical. Is every Jew truly a diamond? What of the criminals? What of the insensitive, arrogant and conceited Jews? What of the Jews who are completely oblivious to Torah?

The truth is that this is not a polemic. It is a fact.

Isaiah prophesied of the Jewish people, “This is the nation I have formed for (the service of) myself. My praises they shall tell.”  What an interesting statement. G-d formed the Jewish people for himself, for his purposes. How do we serve G-d’s purpose? One would assume that we serve G-d through prayer, Torah study and observance of the mitzvos. (1)

But the prophet comes along and says no! This nation serves me even before they sing my praises. The prophet did not say that G-d formed the nation so that they could sing his praises. He said that the Jew was formed for G-d. Period. That the Jew sings G-d’s praises is added later, almost as an afterthought.

Legitimizing the King

The very existence of a Jew, even one who does not pray, study or observe the commandments is a testament to G-d’s greatness. G-d is first and foremost our king and we are first and foremost his subjects.

A king cannot reign unless there is a nation over whom he might reign. The very existence of subjects enables the king to ascend to the throne. Even the subject who does not obey the king’s law is a member of the nation and contributes to the legitimacy of the throne.

Every nation has its nobility and its commoners. The monarchy is not legitimate if it is only accepted by the nobility. Acceptance by the entire nation, the ministers, nobility and the commoners, is what legitimizes the monarchy. Every common subject, even the criminal, legitimizes the king’s throne.

The Jewish people also have nobility and commoners. The righteous and pious, our scholars and sages, are our nobility. But the pious themselves cannot legitimize G-d’s reign. To be king G-d needs the common Jew as much as he needs the pious Jew. He needs the unobservant teffilin, the bond of love - innerstreamas much as he needs the observant. One Jew is not greater than the other. From this point of view we are all equal. (2)

“This is the nation that I have formed for (the service of ) myself.” Even before we sing his praises, we legitimize his kingship. We each serve equally in this powerful purpose.

We Can . . . and Must

This does not exempt us from Torah and mitzvos. This does not justify the lack of observance on the part of certain Jews. It simply means that no Jew may discount another, regardless of background, observance or affiliation, for we each play a significant role. (3)

Some Jews were not raised with Torah. Others were raised with Torah but were unfortunately exposed to negative experiences that turned them away from Torah. Such Jews may think that they are either exempt from, or incapable of, returning to the path of observance, to the path of singing G-d’s praises.

Then we read that the prophet says, “My praises they shall sing.” Every Jew is important, every Jew is crucial and every Jew can, should and will sing G-d’s praises.

We are fortunate to have been granted special status. We are fortunate to have been granted Jewish souls. The prophet tells us that we have the potential and the obligation to nurture our souls and to bring them back to the surface.

We can bring out the best in ourselves! Furthermore, we can help to bring out the best in others. We can bring out the best in observant Jews by teaching them how to enhance their love and respect for all Jews. We can bring out the best in Jews who are not yet observant by demonstrating the beauty and warmth of authentic Torah Judaism.

Family Cohesiveness

This cannot be accomplished in an atmosphere of divisiveness and mistrust. We must approach every Jew with love and acceptance. We must treat every Jew with the respect that a G-dly prince deserves. We must cherish every Jew for we are all G-d’s children. We must love every Jew for we are all one family. We must honor every Jew because we each play a crucial role in the divine master plan. (4) (6)

Footnotes

  1. Isaiah 43: 21. This chapter also serves as the Haftorah for Parshat Vayikra.
  2. In addition to legitimizing G-d’s kingship, every Jew is also a living testament to G-d’s love for the Jewish people and for his power to dictate the course of history. The continued existence of our people is one of the greatest miracles of history. This is especially true of our generation, the sons and daughters of holocaust survivors. In this day and age every Jew is a walking testament to G-d’s greatness and love. Testifying to this effect does not require Torah observance. It simply requires that we exist. No Jew has the right to dismiss another because when we dismiss another, we dismiss a testament to G-d.
  3. It is true that Torah law mandates the public shaming of sinners in order to discourage Jews from sin. When a Jew knows that his sins will be publicly disclosed, he will repent and turn from sin. However, this law only holds true after one has met the very severe conditions that accompany this law. The details of these conditions are too numerous for this essay but they include an obligation to talk to the sinner first with love and concern.The law also includes talking to the sinner many times and not abandoning hope after one or two attempts. It includes rallying others who might have influence with this individual. Most importantly, it includes an obligation to consider carefully the consequences before we reveal a private fact to the public. Will such proclamation inspire the sinner to repent and change his ways or will it cause him to resent Torah and its ways?

    In days of old, when the Jewish community was the only social community in which a Jew could expect acceptance, it was possible to argue that public shaming would compel the Jew to change his ways. Today, with the exception of very few, Jews who are publicly shamed are driven further away from Judaism and observance. One must consider very carefully before going that route and ensure that these actions will have positive results. One must also be certain that each action is motivated purely by a love for the Jew and a sincere desire to help him repent. If there are other unkosher motives, then one has no permission to involve oneself in such undertakings. Let him leave that for others while he works to rectify the love in his own heart for all Jews.

  4. A heretic is the one kind of Jew that Torah law stipulates must be hated with a passion.. However two points must be made. First, one is not considered a heretic until he has first studied the entire Torah and then rejected it. Otherwise one is an ignoramus, not a heretic and an ignoramus must be taught and nurtured, not hated. Second, even a heretic must also be loved. We must hate him with one side of our heart and love him with the other. See Tanya, chapter 32 (R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chassidus Chabad, 1745 – 1813).
  5. The Mishanh (Uktzin 3:12) declares that peace is the greatest vessel for blessing. When we achieve unity and peace, we merit an additional measure of G-d’s blessing.
  6. This Essay is based on a talk given by the Lubavitcher Rebbe (R. Menachem M Schneerson, Rebbe of Lubavitch, NY, 1902-1994) on Nissan 3, 5751.

 

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