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A Community of Individuals - ויקהל

Friday, 25 February, 2022 - 9:18 am


A Community of Individuals 

Every human being has two contradictory psychological and existential needs: the need to experience life as an independent, unique individual as well as the need to be part of a larger group. We each sense that we are individuals with a unique personality, perspective, and gifts. To live an authentic life we must celebrate and cherish our individuality. Yet, we also possess a deep need to be part of a group, we yearn to transcend our existence and be included in something larger than ourselves.  

Where do these contradictory needs emerge from? 

These two needs are reflected in the names of the final two portions of the book of Exodus, Vayakhel and Pekudei. Vayakhekl translated as “and he {Moses} assembled,” which comes from the word Kahal, congregation, expresses the theme that individuals connect to form a community. In contrast, Pekudei, which means “counting” and refers to the accounting of the material donated to the temple and to the counting of the Jewish people, highlights the unique contribution of each individual.   

These contradictory needs reflect the purpose of all of creation, which is to create a home for G-d in the physical world. The formula “a home for G-d in the physical world” has two realities: the infinite and the finite. G-d, who is infinite, is drawn down into the finite reality of the physical world. The purpose of creation is written into the very core of our soul, which in turn expresses itself in the life of the person. 

Our soul seeks the connection to Divine infinity. This is expressed by the deep need to escape the confines of our personality, to transcend our own concerns and interests, and be subsumed within a larger community. The goal of creation, however, is to draw infinity into the finite reality, to draw the infinite G-d into every facet of creation. The soul, therefore, experiences the desire to celebrate its finite, unique personality, to celebrate its particular perspective, and to cherish its exclusive contribution to the universe.  

This insight is adapted from the Rebbe's words at a Farbrengen {Chassidic gathering} thirty years ago this Shabbat, which was the last time we heard the Rebbe speak at a Farbrengen. To quote Rabbi Yanki Tauber: “The Rebbe's Chassidim are still waiting for the next farbrengen. In the meantime, they're making communities.”

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