E Unum Pluribus

Friday, 10 September, 2021 - 6:28 am

One of the great virtues of America dates back to its founding. Thirteen colonies joined together to form the union that is the United States of America.  Thus declares the Latin motto on our currency: E pluribus unum, translated as “Out of many, one.”

Throughout the years this oneness has grown to include many others. 183 years later the 50th state, Hawaii, joined the union. Thousands upon thousands arrived on America’s shores from other countries, embracing America’s values and seeking its opportunities.  And, no doubt, many more will come.

The beauty of America is the joining together of so many different individuals toward a common goal.

What happens, I wonder, when an American leaves America for greener pastures elsewhere? Does the loss of one person affect the whole? And, is the union weakened by an American-turned-terrorist-or-traitor?


Now consider the Jewish people.

We are similar in many ways, sharing history, beliefs and traditions.  Yet, we are as disparate as can be – from Moroccan to Russian, from atheist to Chassidic.  Remarkably, we all belong to the same people.

What happens if one of us abandons our people? Are the Jews less complete?


In this week’s parsha of Vayelech we learn about two important mitzvot. The first, the commandment of Hakhel, is the gathering of the entire Jewish people in Jerusalem every seven years. Every Jew – man, woman and child – was required to attend. The second is the final mitzvah in the entire Torah – the commandment to write a Torah scroll. Every single letter is necessary to maintain its sanctity. If one of the 304,805 letters is missing, the entire Torah becomes invalid.

The juxtaposition of these commandments demonstrates the critical necessity of every single Jew. Just as every letter is necessary for the Torah to be whole, every Jew is necessary for the Jewish people to be whole.  If the most rotten, apathetic, rebellious, or self-hating Jew is missing – we are all missing.

We may not agree on everything. We may not share common language, political persuasions, values or cuisine. But we are all indispensable to the wholeness of the Jewish people.


As we prepare for the most sacred day of Yom Kippur, let us remember that every Jew belongs in shul on Yom Kippur.  The observant, the unobservant, the atheist, the fanatic, the young, and the old – each one is critical to Klal Yisrael.  We all need each other. Without each other, our peoplehood – and our prayers – are lacking.

Maybe a more suitable phrase for the Jewish people is E unum pluribus, “Out of the one, many.”

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