by Rabbi Jay Spero
Spero at 862-9546 or email@example.com
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This week's portion, Bechukosai, starts
off with the words, "If you will follow My decrees and observe My
commandments and perform them, then I will provide your rains in their time, and
the land will give its produce, and the tree of the field will give its
fruit." Three verses later the Hashem states: "You will pursue your
enemies; and they will fall before you by the sword. Five of you will pursue a
hundred and a hundred will pursue ten thousand." (Vayikra 26:3-4; 7-8)
One need not be a math major to ask the glaringly obvious question: If five can
pursue a hundred, then five hundred should be able to pursue ten thousand. It
should take more than one hundred to pursue ten thousand. What is the
explanation for this mathematical discrepancy?
When Hashem gave us the Torah, He did so in the desert. Rabbi Samson Rafael
Hirsch explains the significance of the location: the reason why it was given in
the desert was to teach us that the Torah is bound to no particular time or
place. (The Land of Israel is the holiest of all lands, and the land most
conducive to keeping the Torah; however, it is not imperative to our keeping of
the Torah.) The Torah is something that stands on its own and is a requirement
for the Jewish people for all time.
One might think that our relationship with Hashem is strictly dependent on how
we relate to him, thus creating the possibility of a Jew living in a vacuum, so
to speak. This is also not true. What is required is a three pronged
relationship between Hashem, the Jewish people, and the Torah.
This is how we explain the mathematical discrepancy. When five Jews are
together, keeping the Torah, thereby improving the world, that is more than five
times as powerful than one individual keeping the Torah. And when one hundred
Jews are keeping the Torah, that is exponentially much more powerful than five.
The whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
All Jews stood together at Sinai when we received the Torah (even the souls of
Jews not yet born). We are here to be a nation of priests. Our true potential
lies not only within ourselves, but within the soul of our fellow Jew. It is our
obligation to teach each other and to enable each other to reach our spiritual
heights. It will soon be Shavuos, when we originally received the Torah. This
year when we receive it anew (as we do every Shavuos) may it be done in as a
Jay Spero is the rabbi of the Saranac
Synagogue in Buffalo.