Monday, April 22, 2013

363 - Yisro

Throughout Parshas Yisro Rashi explains that the purpose of Matan Torah was to elevate Bnei Yisrael. Before Matan Torah Hashem told Moshe to relate to Bnei Yisrael that through accepting the Torah they will become a nation of kohanim. Rashi explains kohanim in this context means nobles. After Matan Torah Moshe told Bnei Yisrael, "Do not fear, because Hashem has come to elevate you." Rashi explains that when all the nations hear how Hashem revealed Himself to Bnei Yisrael, Bnei Yisrael will gain prominence and be elevated in the eyes of the nations. 

Yet, as Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) points out, this level of distinction was not limited to Klal Yisrael as a whole. Each individual was elevated to a level of prominence. Hashem told Moshe to warn Bnei Yisrael to remain stationary during Matan Torah lest they come too close to Hashem thereby causing many to die. Rashi explains that if even one person loses his life, in Hashem's eyes it is considered as if many people died. Each and every individual has the importance of a multitude.

The importance of the individual has been greatly downgraded in our day and age. In contrast, the Torah focuses on the individual. It was given with the specific intent of making each and every person into nobility. With this in mind, there is absolutely no reason for one to compare himself to his friends, colleagues, neighbors or classmates. The focus must remain on one's own strengths and middos. Rebbe Aharon of Karlin would say, "What should I ask Hashem for - that I should be Avraham Avinu? There already was an Avraham Avinu who accomplished whatever Avraham Avinu had to accomplish. I simply want to be Aharon Karliner and accomplish what Aharon Karliner is meant to accomplish!" 

A person's greatness is not determined by how he matches up to those around him, but how Hashem views him. How has he used his personal mix of qualities in his Avodas Hashem? Each and every Jew was raised to a level of distinction. Our avodah is to become aware of our prominence and not to get bogged down by comparing ourselves to others. 

The Alter of Kelm would say that one doesn't have to warn a king not to speak lashon hara. Even without a warning a king is careful not to speak derogatorily about anyone since he is cognizant of his awesome stature and realizes that with a mere slip of his tongue someone could lose their life. The Alter continues that in a similar vein, if we were aware of our intrinsic greatness and loftiness many of our problems would fall by the wayside. We would realize their pettiness and how such squabbles are not appropriate for our lofty spiritual level!

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