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Shabbat Parashat Shelach 5774

Ein Ayah: The Individuals Spiritual Sacrifice on Behalf of the Community

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Bikurim 40)

Gemara: In the beginning, everyone who was capable of reciting [the verses of mikra bikurim] would recite himself, and he who did not know how to do it would be prompted. Some people refrained from bringing [the bikurim]. They instituted that they would prompt those who did not know and those who did know.    

 

Ein Ayah: The main idea of strengthening the community through the joining together of the powers of the individuals, which finds full expression by means of bikurim, includes all elements of unity. It goes as far as withholding honor and the expression of the high standing of the individuals who have earned these distinctions and not allow them to act independently according to their standards. People on a high level will lovingly agree to sacrifice their freedom of action upon realizing that it brings on bad results for the community.

There are matters that are done according to the Torah in a set manner. The fact that there is a set formula negates people’s ability to express their spiritual feelings based on their personal level and outlook. Whenever it does not hurt the community, it is good for each capable individual to go about his spiritual life in a manner that fits his characteristics. However since the lack of a set formula causes the general populace to lose its spirit [when unable to perform a spiritual task well], a set manner is formed. Once the formula is set, even those who do better without it are required to perform their religious obligations in the set way.

Prayer is a good example of this phenomenon. Those who have a particularly sensitive and wise nature are more fully inspired by praying according to the manner they choose, based on their insights and their feelings, as was done before there was a set text. When it becomes necessary to arrive at a set text for the welfare of the community, an individual certainly must not separate himself from the community. Even if he feels that being limited to a set formula steals his spiritual breadth, he should realize that our work on behalf of the community includes many sacrifices, including spiritual ones, which are the greatest sacrifices a spiritual person can make.

This lesson is revealed nicely in the context of bikurim. [The text of mikra bikurim was set by the Torah itself, but reciting it spontaneously is still more inspiring than having to repeat it after one who prompts him.] Until those who did not know how to recite it started to refrain from bringing their bikurim, it was proper to allow more independence in reciting the passages. It was certainly meaningful for those who could recite it themselves to freely express their emotions of love of Hashem with their own speech. However when the public need arose, to alleviate the problems of those who were unwilling to come, those who did not need help yet agreed to have it recited for them were happy that their agreement to curb their emotions provided an important service for the community.

The phenomenon addressed by the Rabbis’ decision served as a model for many things that were standardized, despite the fact that the wise would have preferred for them to have remained up to the individual, thereby allowing them to broaden their experience. This sacrifice is the greatest form of benevolence and an attribute of sanctity which leaders make upon realizing the benefit to the unity of the nation. They see what the future holds and value peace within the entire nation. “Seek the peace of Jerusalem; may all who love You have tranquility … On behalf of my brothers and friends, I will speak of peace in your midst. On behalf of the House of Hashem, our G-d, I will beseech goodness for you” (Tehillim 122:6-9).

[With this, we have finished Ein Ayah on Seder Zeraim and the second volume of the set.]

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