Parshas Va’Yikra; 5th Day of Nissan, 5750
This week’s Haftora begins with the declaration, “I have
created this people for Myself; they shall relate My praise,” a
statement that expresses the unique nature of the Jewish people. Each
Jew — man, woman, and child — at every time and in every
circumstance, is a member of G-d’s nation, created by G-d for a
distinct purpose, namely, to “relate My praise.”
verse communicates two fundamental concepts: a) the Jewish people is a
unique nation; b) they are charged with a special service, “relating
G-d’s praise.” Significantly, the Mechilta focuses on only
the first clause of the verse. This omission implies that the Jewish
people are G-d’s people independent of their service of G-d. This
inference, however, is problematic, for the entire purpose of the Jewish
people’s existence is to serve G-d, as the Mishna states, “I was
only created to serve My Creator.” Moreover, the verse continues,
“they shall relate My praise.” This declaration is a definitive
statement, leaving no room for doubt.
connection between the Jewish people and G-d is described with the
metaphor of a king and his people. This concept is expressed in our
prayers on Rosh HaShana and similarly, in the narratives of the exodus
from Egypt and the giving of the Torah. In Chassidic thought, it is
explained that the relationship between a king and his people represents
the deepest and most essential bond possible. Our Sages declare,
“There is no king without a people,” implying that a king’s very
existence as king is dependent on the people. Conversely, a people are a
people only when they have a king. This implies that over and above the
relationship established through the commands given by the king to his
people, there must be a fundamental connection between them. Thus, the Midrash
states, “Accept My sovereignty (i.e., establish this fundamental bond)
and afterwards, I will issue decrees upon you.”
verse from the Haftora clearly states that G-d created the Jewish
people as His nation. At the giving of the Torah, when the Jewish people
accepted G-d’s sovereignty, they made an eternal statement of their
identity. Since then, whoever is born a Jew or converted according to halacha
is part of G-d’s people, an integral element of that nation, who —
because “there is no king without a people” — brings about G-d’s
kingship. Every Jew, regardless of his level of observance, is still a
fundamental part of our people, as our Sages declared, “A Jew, even
though he may sin, is still a Jew.”
are two seemingly opposite aspects in the relationship between a king
and his people: On one hand, a king is on an incomparably higher level
than the people. Indeed, the concept of a king is only appropriate to
describe a ruler over common people and not over advisors and officers.
This indicates separation and distance from a king. On the other hand, a
king and the people must share a fundamental com monality. For
example, a king must rule over other hu man beings; a person who owns
many animals is not considered a king.
Jew shares a commonality with G-d, not only with regard to the Jewish
soul, which is a part of G-d, but also with regard to the Jew as he
exists in this world, a soul in a body. Indeed, the ten soul-powers of a
Jew reflects the ten sfiros. Even his physical body was created
to reflect the letters of G-d’s name.
concept is suggested in the Tanya, which describes the Jewish
soul as “an actual part of G-d.” The expression “part of G-d” is
a quote from the book of Iyov, and the word “actual” is the
addition of the Alter Rebbe. The Hebrew word for actual, “mamash,”
is also related to the word “mishush,” meaning touch. This
implies that the essential G-dliness of the soul becomes invested in the
Jewish people’s body to the extent that it can be perceived in even
his physical activities. Even his seemingly mundane activities are
expressions of his fundamental G-dly life-energy.
applies even to a Jew who is not observant. The Rambam writes that every
Jew (even one who protests to the contrary) desires to be part of the
Jewish people, fulfill mitzvos, and separate himself from sin. If
he does not do so, it is only because his evil inclination forces him to
act otherwise. He truly desires to fulfill G-d’s will and it is only
an external factor that holds him back from doing so.
essential desire has been revealed by the many Jews throughout the
centuries — even those who were not observant — who actually
sacrificed their lives to sanctify G-d’s name. When it comes to the
performance of Torah and mitzvos, it is possible though that
“the spirit of folly” can prevent a Jew from realizing that through
every sin, he becomes separated from G-d. He may remain unaware of how
he is separating himself from his own essential will. However, were this
to be explained to him so that he would understand, he would be willing
to sacrifice himself for every aspect of Torah and mitzvos. Thus,
the Jewish people as a nation, despite their differences, are a single,
indivisible entity united by their essential commitment to G-dliness.
existence of such a nation “relates G-d’s praise.” Independent of
any service that a Jew performs, the very fact of his existence is an
expression of G-d’s praise. This is expressed in the eternal existence
of the Jewish people. Despite the fact that the Jewish people are “one
lamb among seventy wolves” and have faced the most severe forms of
persecution, they have endured throughout the course of history, while
nations greater and more powerful have disappeared. G-d has invested a
dimension of eternity within the Jewish people; their continued
existence is, therefore, an open expression of Divinity.
every generation (not only in the time of the exodus or while the Beis
HaMikdash was standing, times when G-dliness was openly
revealed), even while the Jewish people are in exile they are G-d’s
nation, and the very fact that they exist “relates His praise.”
particular, this applies today, only a generation after the awesome
Holocaust, which threatened to utterly annihilate our people. The fact
that our people were able to endure that terrible period and continue,
giving birth to a new generation and maintaining the existence of the
Jewish people (regardless of their spiritual level), reveals G-d’s
presence within our world. Each Jew is a living miracle who expresses,
by virtue of his very existence, the praise of G-d.
each Jew is an heir to the entire spiritual heritage of our people.
There is a golden chain extending back to the forefathers Avrohom,
Yitzchok, and Yaakov. Every Jew in the present generation is a
representative of the entire collective body of our people as they have
existed throughout the course of history.
essential nature of every being seeks expression. Since G-d has invested
an essential aspect of His Being within the Jewish people, “no Jew can
— or desires to — separate himself from G-d.” This essential
desire will ultimately seek to express itself in a Jew’s behavior and
bring him to “relate G-d’s praise” through the service of Torah
above concepts are also reflected in this week’s Torah portion,
Parshas VaYikra (for there is a thematic connection between the
beginning of the Haftora and the beginning of the Torah reading).
Our Sages explain that the opening verse of the portion, “And He
called to Moshe,” reflects the dearness with which G-d relates to the
Jewish people. This dearness is of an essential nature, expressed by the
use of the pronoun “He” instead of any of the names for G-d,
referring to the essential quality of G-d, which transcends the concept
of a name.
the command, “A man
who will offer a sacrifice from you...” reflects the uniqueness
of the Jewish people. The Hebrew word for “man,” adam, is
related to the word edameh, “I will resemble,” and thus
refers to the verse, “I will resemble the One above,” i.e., man is
representative of G-d, as it were.
The awareness of the uniqueness of each Jew must effect the manner in
which we relate to him. When one encounters a Jew who, for whatever
reason, does not (at present) observe Torah and mitzvos, one
should relate to him as an integral part of the nation created by G-d to
relate His praise.
this applies to the Jewish people in the present generation, who as
explained above, are each living miracles, examples of how, despite the
Holocaust perpetrated in the previous generation, the Divine quality of
eternity imparted to the Jewish people allows them to survive.
Furthermore, to a large extent, they are not responsible for their lack
of observance. They are like “children captured by the gentiles,”
who were never given an opportunity to learn about their Jewish heritage
in a complete manner.
must seek to reach out to these individuals and motivate them to
increased Torah observance. Since, as explained above, they were created
“to relate G-d’s praise” and they have an essential desire to
fulfill Torah and mitzvos, efforts should be made to bring this
desire into expression. We must explain, in a pleasant and comfortable
manner, the importance and dearness of Torah and mitzvos and how
they will intensify one’s connection with G-d.
course, the opposite path should not be taken: A person cannot remain
involved with his concerns alone (even when they are in the realm of
holiness), isolating himself so that other Jews (whom he feels are on a
lower level than he is) should not disturb his service.
is the direct opposite of the commandment, “Love your fellowman as
yourself,” and the opposite of the concept of mutual responsibility.
When a person appreciates that he has the potential to bring another Jew
closer to G-d, he must realize the immensity of this responsibility and
make every effort to use this opportunity to the fullest extent
Jewish people are a single unified entity. Our Rabbis explain that the
word Yisroel is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning, “There
are 600,000 (the number of Jewish souls) letters in the Torah.” A
blemish in a single letter of a Torah scroll disqualifies the entire
scroll, including even the Ten Commandments. Similarly, the status of
every single member of our people has an effect on the people as a
whole. Thus, one’s efforts on behalf of one’s fellow Jews are also
integrally related to one’s own welfare.
the above, we can appreciate the importance of speaking positively about
every Jew and the detrimental effects of speaking critically. The Jewish
people are G-d’s nation. Therefore, whoever has true fear of G-d will
also fear to criticize the nation who are His children and subjects.
Criticizing or speaking unfavorably about any portion of the Jewish
people is like making such statements against G-d Himself. Zechariah the
Prophet relates that a person who strikes a Jew is like one who strikes
G-d in the eye. Since “a king cannot exist without a people,” the
appreciation of G-d as King of the world is dependent on His people, the
Jewish people, and an attack against them, Heaven forbid, is an attack
certainly applies when these statements are made in public and
publicized to the extent that they are picked up by the gentile press.
This especially applies when the critic is an influential public figure.
a person made such statements in public, he must repent in a manner that
all who heard the negative statements hear how he regrets having made
them. When Yeshayahu criticized the Jewish people — although they were
deserving of such criticism — he was punished. The Bible relates this
incident to us to “open the way for repentance,” so anyone who makes
such statements should appreciate the need to correct his behavior…
Just as the Jewish people are G-d’s chosen people, Eretz Yisroel is G-d’s
chosen land, a holy land given to the Jewish people as an eternal
inheritance. The land of Israel was given to the entire Jewish people,
those living on the land at present, and those who are presently living
in the Diaspora. No one is entitled to give up any portion of Eretz
Yisroel to gentiles. Maintaining possession of these lands is the only
path to peace. Succumbing to the pressure to surrender them will only
invite additional pressure, weakening the security of the Jewish people
and exposing them to danger. Heaven forbid that the government in Eretz
Yisroel should consider surrendering any portion of Eretz Yisroel G-d
has granted us.