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“They traveled from Refidim, and they arrived at Midbar Sinai, and they encamped in the Midbar, and Israel encamped there …” (Shemos 19:2)

It is noted that the pasuk is written in the plural form, but Rashi observes that the pasuk concludes with the singular form of the verb “encamped,” and he comments that the nation encamped there as one man, with one heart.


Our sages explain that the Torah was given specifically in the Midbar to suggest that a person should mimic the solitude of a Midbar in his service of Hashem, as if no one else but he is serving Hashem. When an individual perceives himself as the sole bearer of the yoke of Torah and mitzvos he will serve Hashem with unconditional devotion and a burning desire. We find, similarly, that the Ten Commandments are written in the singular form, so that each individual should feel a special connection to the Torah. When the Jewish nation did teshuva before Kabbalas haTorah they each became like the sole servant of Hashem, attaining the ultimate level of “one man with one heart.”

However, not all the mitzvos in the Torah can be performed by every individual. For example, the mitzvos pertaining to the kehuna can only be fulfilled by a Kohen; the mitzvos applicable to the leviyim can only be fulfilled by a Levi. If the firstborn of a Yisrael is a girl, he cannot fulfill the mitzvah of pidyon haben (redemption of the firstborn son). It is only if one includes himself with the rest of the Jewish people that he can take credit for the fulfillment of all 613 mitzvos. The Ari suggests that before the morning prayers one should say that he accepts upon himself the mitzvah of “v’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha – loving one’s fellow man” so that the combined mitzvos of the Jewish people are credited to every individual, with every member of the Jewish Nation partnering in the performance of the 613 mitzvos in the Torah. The Ohr HaChaim confirms that in this way it is considered as though each individual has personally performed the mitzvah himself. Since the Torah could not be fulfilled autonomously in its entirety, it was imperative that the Jewish People should be as “one man with one heart.”

HaGaon R’ Mordechai Eliyahu expounds that notwithstanding this criterion, an individual must always do his utmost to fulfill every precept possible, as if he is the sole recipient of the Torah. He must understand that even if, chas v’shalom, no one else would fulfill the Torah properly, it does not diminish his personal obligation to do so.

We say in the Birchos Krias Shema, “and You have brought us close to Your great Name,” alluding to the occasion of kabalas haTorah at Har Sinai, and our desire to be brought closer to Hashem on a daily basis, and to feel the experience of matan Torah anew each day.

The Ramchal comments on this thought and states that at Har Sinai Hashem infused the Jewish Nation with the prestige, esteem and strength to serve Hashem. This is what is meant when we say in the Haggadah, “Had Hashem brought us to Har Sinai, but not given us the Torah, it would have been sufficient for us.” By bringing us to Har Sinai, and imbuing us with that unique gift of being able to fulfill the mitzvos as a united entity, He empowered us with the ability to achieve the mystical perfection of tikun habriyah – rectification of creation. From this point forward, the Jewish Nation were crowned with a heavenly dynamism to learn Torah and observe the mitzvos, as it says (19:6), “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of princes and a holy nation.”

In an outrageous defamatory blood libel, in 1911, R’ Mendel Beilis of Kiev, was accused of using the blood of a murdered child for the baking of matzos. The entire Jewish world was shaken by this libelous allegation and all feared for his fate.

R’ Meir Shapiro of Lublin contacted Rabbi Mazeh, the Chief Rabbi of Moscow, to advise him on how to respond in defense of Mr. Beilis to these false anti-Semitic accusations.

One of the arguments of the prosecution was the statement of R’ Shimon Bar Yochai (Yevamos 61a), Atem kruyin adam v’ein hagoyim kruyin adam – the Jewish people are called man, but the non-Jews are not called man.” The prosecution claimed that this implied that the people of the nations of the world were not considered human beings.

R’ Meir Shapiro instructed the chief rabbi exactly how to explain this Chazal and what its true intent and meaning was. He noted the statement in Talmud (Shavuos 39a) that the entire Jewish people are guarantors for one another. Thus, the fate of one individual in Klal Yisrael is the fate and concern of every single Jew in the nation. Therefore, every single person needs to try to do whatever possible to prove R’ Mendel Beilis righteous and attain his acquittal.

“What would happen,” asked R’ Meir Shapiro, “if a non-Jew was accused of the very same crime?” He noted that possibly the people who lived in his neighborhood would be distressed. Perhaps even the people who lived in the city might be worried. But those who lived throughout the state, the country, and certainly the world, would not care at all, and would not lift a finger to help him.

The Jewish people are different, and that’s why the Talmud says they are called man. If a Jewish person is in trouble, if he is wrongly accused, the entire Jewish nation stands by his side, “like one man with one heart.” For that reason, the nations of the world cannot be called adam (man) in the singular form; they are called anashim (men) in the plural form, or human beings.


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Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, a prominent rav and Torah personality, is a daily radio commentator who has authored over a dozen books, and a renowned speaker recognized for his exceptional ability to captivate and inspire audiences worldwide.