Sichos in English
Parshas VaYikra; 5th Day of Nissan, 5750
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."
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
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."
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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."
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
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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-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.
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 possible.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.