The Eternal Nation
Sichos in English

Shabbos Parshas VaYikra; 5th Day of Nissan, 5750

1. This weekís 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 ó man, woman, and child ó at every time and in every circumstance, is a member of G-dís nation, created by
G-d for a distinct purpose, namely, to "relate My praise."

The verse communicates two fundamental concepts: a) the Jewish people is a unique nation; b) they are charged with a special service, "relating G-dís praise." Significantly, the Mechilta focuses on only the first clause of the verse. This omission implies that the Jewish people are G-dís people independent of their service of G-d. This inference, however, is problematic, for the entire purpose of the Jewish peopleís 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.

The 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 kingís 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."

The 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-dís 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-dís people, an integral element of that nation, who ó because "there is no king without a people" ó brings about G-dís 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."

There 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 commonality. For example, a king must rule over other hu man beings; a person who owns many animals is not considered a king.

Each 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 sífiros. Even his physical body was created to reflect the letters of G-dís name.

This 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 peopleís 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.

This 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-dís will and it is only an external factor that holds him back from doing so.

This essential desire has been revealed by the many Jews throughout the centuries ó even those who were not observant ó who actually sacrificed their lives to sanctify G-dís 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.

The existence of such a nation "relates G-dís praise." Independent of any service that a Jew performs, the very fact of his existence is an expression of G-dís 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.

In 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-dís nation, and the very fact that they exist "relates His praise."

In 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-dís presence within our world. Each Jew is a living miracle who expresses, by virtue of his very existence, the praise of G-d.

Furthermore, 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.

The 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 ó or desires to ó separate himself from G-d." This essential desire will ultimately seek to express itself in a Jewís behavior and bring him to "relate G-dís praise" through the service of Torah and mitzvos.

The above concepts are also reflected in this weekís 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.

Similarly, 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.

2. The awareness of the uniqueness of each Jew must affect 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.

Surely, 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.

We 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-dís 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 oneís connection with G-d.

Of 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.

This 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 possible.

The 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, oneís efforts on behalf of oneís fellow Jews are also integrally related to oneís own welfare.

From 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-dís 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 against Him.

This certainly applies when these statements are made in public and publicized to the extent that they are picked up by the media. This especially applies when the critic is an influential public figure.

If 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 ó although they were deserving of such criticism ó 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 behaviorÖ

3. Just as the Jewish people are G-dís chosen people, Eretz Yisroel is G-dís 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.


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.




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 against Him.


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