one big, beautiful picture

Friday, 2 June, 2017 - 7:13 am


Dear Friends,

The world has always been divided between those who exalt the equality and the similarity between all human beings, and those who emphasize the individuality and special traits of each person.

It is an age-old question: what can bring peace and unity? Will these come about when all the differences between human beings are tucked away, out of sight, so that everyone will look the same and seem equal, or when we will learn to focus on each individual’s differences and uniqueness, and yet, contain these differences?

In Parashat Nasso, which we will read tomorrow, there are 71 Psukim (verse) that repeat themselves almost word for word. That is the description of the consecration of the altar in the Mishkan by donations and sacrifices. It was performed during twelve days, in which the twelve leaders of the tribes that constituted the Jewish People brought their offerings. There is something interesting here. On one hand, the princes of the tribes donated and brought identical sacrifices and offerings; on the other hand, they didn’t do this all together, but, rather, each one brought his on a different day.

We learn from the Midrash that in spite of the fact that every one of them brought the same things, each one “brought according to his mind.” The feelings were different, the thoughts were different; each one of the princes had his own special intentions that were behind his actions. Each one of them expressed his uniqueness and the uniqueness of his tribe – while doing the exact same acts as the other princes. The Midrash even gives in detail the various intentions behind each and every offering of each and every prince.

In Likutei Sichot, section 23, the Rebbe gleans a message from this behavior of the princes. On one hand, we are all similar, because we have one father and our souls come from the same source. Knowing and recognizing this unity will indeed move us towards togetherness, but this will not be deep and internal enough, because, practically speaking, we are different from each other. That’s why we need the other aspect: to face, with courage, the fact that “each and every one has aspects and levels that his fellow does not.” Such a way of looking at things will lead a person to the conclusion that we are all parts of a puzzle and together create one big, beautiful picture. In the words of the Rebbe, “When one knows and feels that everyone needs the others and that no one is complete without his fellow, this brings one to join in unity with another Jew, and so one completes his fellow, and, as is known, all the Jews together create one complete level.”

Integrating these two aspects of unity is so important, that without it the people could not complete the consecration of the altar. On one hand, it was necessary to leave room for the differences and the uniqueness in that every prince should have his own day to bring his offerings, and specifically “according to his intentions” – his own, individual ones. On the other hand, it was important to emphasize that each one of us, in his own private service of Hashem, is part of one big thing that is common to all the other princes.

In short: We are all part of one big, beautiful and precisely drawn picture. But we must not forget that in order to put it together, one must recognize the uniqueness of each piece of it.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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