Undamaged Goods

Friday, 17 May, 2024 - 7:59 am

I spent last Shabbat in Santa Fe, New Mexico at a regional conference for Shluchim in the Western USA. It was a pleasure to join dozens of my fellow colleagues for a weekend of learning, sharing, and training.

Although we serve very different communities, we all share a common goal. It’s refreshing and invigorating to hear the stories, challenges, and successes of these fellow rabbis. We truly feel like family.

The boost that we get from collaborating with others puts an extra bounce in our step. We feel like we are part of one whole – one army on a mission inspired by the Rebbe to make this world a holy dwelling place for Hashem.

Every morning before we pray, we recite the following: I hereby take upon myself to fulfill the mitzvah, ‘Love your fellow as yourself.’

Why is it important to recite this before our prayers? Obviously, brotherly love is an important mitzvah. But, there are many important mitzvot. Why do we need to commit ourselves specifically to this mitzvah before praying? Why not commit to all the mitzvot?

The answer may be found in our parsha. Parshat Emor discusses the laws of animal sacrifices. One of the regulations is that, “Any animal that has a blemish, you shall not offer up... it shall be unblemished. It shall not have any defect in it.”

In order to offer something as a gift to Almighty G-d, it must be complete. We present only the best to Hashem.

Nowadays, after the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, we cannot offer sacrifices. However, our daily prayers are designed by the Sages to correspond to the daily offerings. Just as the purpose of sacrifices was to lift ourselves toward Hashem, similarly our davening is designed to bring us closer to our Creator. We are the sacrifice.

All Jews are limbs of one spiritual body. If I’m alienated from my fellow Jew, I’m blemished. If I don’t talk to my sister, I’ve amputated that limb. If I resent my neighbor, the body isn’t whole. If I can’t see the good in my coworker, my eyes are blind.

In order to offer ourselves as a sacrifice to G-d through prayer, we need to be complete. Otherwise, we might pray for long hours and with great concentration – but the entire sacrifice is rejected on the grounds that its blemished.

The greatest nachas Hashem can have is when we all get along. When we are whole, G-d showers us with blessings.

Spending cherished time in the bosom of my fellow Shluchim – uplifted by the ever-more-relevant teachings of the Rebbe and his boundless love for others – reminded me that we are all one. Every single Jew is connected. It’s up to us to act that way.

With true unity, we will indeed come closer to G-d and witness the realization of the purpose of Creation, when peace and holiness will shine throughout the world.



Thank you to Rabbi Y. Jacobson for some ideas in this Torah thought.

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