Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey

This week we commence learning the second book of the Torah with the portion of Shmos (Exodus1:1-6:1) which begins with the verse "These are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt:  Reuben,Shimon..." (Exodus 1:1…).

The famed commentary, Rashi, writes: "Although G-d already enumerated them by name when they were living, He enumerates them again at their death to express G-d's love for them, for they are compared to the stars which He brings out and brings in by number and by name, as it is said "He brings out their hosts by number, He calls them all by name."

Israel is compared to the stars.

Every star has two distinct aspects. There is the quality common to all stars -- the importance and greatness of each star as a star. This merits that they be mentioned by number, because precious and important things are carefully counted. Bringing out the stars "by number" shows the preciousness of all stars, but does not express the individual characteristics of each particular star. These find expression in the star's name: the qualities that distinguish one star from another, the properties possessed by each star that are unique to it alone, the particular influence it exerts in the cosmos different from that of any other star — all these merit that each be called by its own name, as the prophet declares, G-d  "...calls them all by name."

It is evident then that "name" and "number", though they both indicate importance, express two separate — almost contradictory - aspects of the object enumerated and named. Number expresses that aspect common to all the enumerated things. If several items are counted together it is because of the common element they all share (items sharing no common factor would not be counted together). On the other hand, name expresses that quality in which the item is distinct, separate and different from another object, which is why each has a different name.

Israel is compared to the stars.

Israel, too, possess the two aspects: there is the essence of the Jew, the "part of G-d above"2 possessed by every Jew as Jew; the Al-mighty makes this endearment known by mentioning the sons of Jacob by number. G-d's enumerating the Jews by name, on the other hand, expresses His love of each individual as a separate, distinct, unique soul, with qualities shared by no other.

Our task: To emulate the ways of G-d Al-mighty and to appreciate the preciousness of all Jews as a whole. Yet, each Jew has to realize that he/she has unique individual qualities and a contribution to share with the world around us.

(Excerpts from  - from Rabbi Yitschak Meir Kagan)

May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!

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