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Shabbat Parashat Vaetchanan 5771

Ein Ayah: Creating the New Level

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 7:25)

Gemara:  Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: One should always come early to shul in order to merit being among the first ten, for even if a hundred come after him, he receives reward corresponding to all of them.

Ein Ayah:  The advantage of the collective (or group) over the individual is in two areas: the qualitative and the quantitative.

Every individual whose heart is focused correctly will dedicate all his toil to the life of the group and its completeness. There are two reasons for this. One is that it is a matter that good sense and integrity dictates that one should be more concerned for the needs of the collective than for his own because there are more of them. Furthermore, there is an added qualitative value to the life of the collective, which makes striving to improve it more worthwhile than striving to improve the life of an individual. This is similar to the idea that the life of a wise and righteous person is more profound than that of someone who has not developed himself.

When comparing the individual and the collective in terms of quantity, it does not make sense to make a cut off point between a group and a collective and say that a certain point there is a group and any further increase does not make a difference. After all, the more people in the group the more important the quantity becomes. However, when you are discussing the qualitative distinction between that which makes up individuals and collectives, it is a question of at what point this special status is reached. After that point is reached, it is only a matter of increasing quantitatively. While the quantitative increase has importance, as well, it does not create a qualitative distinction.

Along these lines, when ten men get together to daven, they create a situation of a group service of Hashem. After this, if additional people join, this is significant as the increase in number gives greater significance. However, this is just a bigger group and therefore those who created the group, made the change which was of inestimably greater significance. This is reminiscent of what the Kuzari writes that the difference between different types of elements in the world (mineral, vegetable, animal, man) is far greater than the differences between two members of the same type of element. Therefore the individuals who create the minyan receive a reward corresponding to all that come afterward.

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