The Importance of the Individual

We learn in the Mishna;

The first man, Adam, was created alone, to teach us that whoever destroys a single life, the Bible considers it as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a single life, the Bible considers it as if he saved an entire world. (Sanhedrin 4:5)

At the start of Vayera, this week’s Torah portion, the Jewish people were limited to Avraham , Sarah, and their household. Having already sent out Hagar and Ishmael, Avraham’s hope for the future of the Jewish people was Isaac. While the call from God to kill his child is hard to imagine, it is even harder to imagine the future of the Jewish people with its founder killing his only heir. When Avraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac, the entire future of the Jewish people was there on that alter. As a result of the saving of Isaac, we have a Jewish people today.

At the start of the book of Exodus we see a repetition of this motif in the person of Moses. Moses was supposed to be killed at birth, but instead was saved in the ark. He goes on to save his people from slavery in Egypt, to receive the Torah at Sinai, and to bring his people to the Promised Land. While both Isaac and Moses play critical roles in the salvation of the Jewish people. We, their descendants, are forced to ask ourselves how we can continue to save the world.

Everyone needs to understand the unique contributions that s/he needs to make to improve the world around them. You might say that you cannot get much accomplished as an individual. However, Margaret Mead said it best, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” So find some other people that share your passions and make a difference.


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