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E Pluribus Unum

Friday, 28 February, 2014 - 1:00 pm

The motto E Pluribus Unum, translated as, “Out of many, one,” is found on the Great Seal of the United States as well as on some US coins.  Its origins date back to 1776 when the committee met to develop a seal.  Originally, the meaning was obvious: out of many states (or colonies) emerge a single nation.

Nowadays, it has also come to represent the diverse nature of the American people.  Out of many races, religions and ethnicities – one nation has emerged.

The beauty of America is not that Idaho and New York are identical. It’s that they are unique – yet still come together to form one country.  Each state is critical. Yet each state’s distinctiveness does not destroy the singular identity of the United States of America.

I have experienced this quality many times during my travels. When in a foreign country, I am perceived as an American. My colleague may be from California – but we are simply Americans to others. I recall meeting up with an American backpacker in the hinterlands of Ethiopia.  Honestly, there was little we could find in common, but somehow we were a team.

To the locals, the entire America was represented in the odd couple that we were.  A Chassidic rabbi and a black Rastafarian became TEAM USA.


When the Jews finished building the Mishkan, Moshe blessed them that the Divine presence should dwell in their handiwork.  The parsha Pikudei – and the entire book of Shemot (Exodus) – ends off with the fulfillment of that blessing.  G-d indeed accepts the home that the nation of Israel has built, as His own.

Our Sages relate that the reason G-d wishes to dwell in the Mishkan was not simply because of the wood, gold and linen from which it was constructed.  The key ‘motivation’ for G-d was the fact that all Jews participated in forming the Mishkan.  It was indeed the Mishkan of the entire Jewish people.  But it was also the Mishkan of each and every Jew. It was yours as much as it was mine.


So long as we give it our very best, we deserve full ownership of the good deeds that we perform. Even if it takes a village to build it, it has your name written all over it.

It is from the many, but it is one – truly yours.

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