The Power of One

Friday, 19 March, 2021 - 7:24 am

In the past year, we have come to stretch our imagination. We have realized how much of a difference each person makes.

This reminds me of a famous Midrash in this week’s Parsha of Vayikra, which tells the following parable:

A group of people were traveling in a boat. One of them took a drill and began to drill a hole beneath himself.

His companions said to him: "Why are you doing this?" Replied the man: "What concern is it of yours? Am I not drilling under my own place?"

Said they to him: "But you will flood the boat for us all!"

It’s easy for us to remember this lesson when it comes to our immediate surroundings – our family, our workplace and intimate social circle. The pandemic has led us to appreciate the effect of our actions.

Yet Judaism truly takes it a step further.

In the second verse of this week’s Torah portion we read, “When a man from among you brings a sacrifice to the Lord; from animals, from cattle or from the flock you shall bring your sacrifice.” What’s not readily evident in the English translation is that the original Hebrew switches from singular form to plural.

Why the grammatical inconsistency?

The commentaries explain that the Torah is relating a powerful message about our deeds. Sacrifices were offered to atone for sins. The Torah is teaching that when we sin individually, the effect is on all of us. We are actually drilling a hole in our collective spiritual boat. And when we offer a sacrifice we achieve merit for the entire Jewish people.

It’s natural for us to think along these lines when fending off trouble or germs.

What’s less natural – and more difficult – is proactive deeds that affect others. 

This Wednesday, 11 Nissan, marks the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s birthday. It will be marked in Idaho as Education & Sharing Day in tribute to the Rebbe’s everlasting contribution to education and good deeds. As Governor Little signs the proclamation, I will be thinking about the Rebbe’s insistence that every person – indeed every deed – makes a difference.

When we are deliberating a good deed, we should view ourselves, and the entire world, as being equally "weighted" with positive and negative energy. The scale is evenly balanced, and any one deed will tip the scale — my personal scale, as well as the global scale. Any one mitzvah can potentially bring change and redemption to the individual and the entire world.

It isn’t only the physical world that exists in the reality of cause and effect, but also – perhaps primarily – the spiritual universe.

Now let me get back to reinforcing our global boat.

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