One for All & All for One
I have just come home from a powerful event at the famous Carnegie Hall in Manhattan. Instead of the usual overladen buffet tables and bars, we were offered humble bottles of water. The weather is freezing here in NY. I appreciate the usual mammoth effort required in organizing events given my own experience; now add the ever-changing Covid restrictions and inclement weather, and I was left wondering how The World Values Network Gala would live up to its reputation. The room was packed. It was clear to me that everyone in attendance came to be inspired by the powerful lineup of people on a mission to change the world in their own significant way: a room full of exemplary leaders.
Before receiving the Torah in Parashat Yithro, we learn that the Jews camped out in the desert. The Torah in fact uses the Hebrew word for encamped is vayichan, he camped, rather than vayachanu, they camped. Additionally the Ten Commandments were also spoken in the singular: Anochi Hashem Elokecha, your God in the singular, rather than the plural elokeichem. The Israelites were so united as a nation that they could be addressed as one.
We learn the Torah was given to each individual, and that every person is required to fulfill the 613 mitzvot. It is obvious that technically this is impossible, given certain mitzvot can only be done by high priests, or only by women, or only by men. However we believe that as a unified people the mitzvah of one person is shared by all.
Similarly the Israelites were called on to be a nation of servant-leaders. They were the people called on to accept responsibility not only for themselves and their families, but for the moral-spiritual state of the nation as a whole. This is the principle that later became known as the idea that kol Yisrael arevin zeh ba-zeh, meaning, all Israelites are responsible for one another. Jews are the people who do not leave leadership to a single individual, no matter how holy or powerful. Every Israelite is expected to be both a prince and a servant; every one of whom is called on to be a leader. The Torah democratizes leadership; as the first President of Israel Chaim Weizmann famously said, “I head a nation of a million presidents.”
This idea has allowed Jews to have a disproportionate impact on the world as leaders, innovators, scholars, artists, entertainers and philanthropists. Tonight each of the honorees and speakers gave us a glimpse of that power of leadership and effecting change. Distinguished guests and honorees who have made a profound impact on the world in our generation included Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer; Miri Adelson who, along with her late husband Sheldon Adelson, funded thousands and of young Jews to visit Israel for the first time on Birthright Israel trips; Marion and Elisha Wiesel, widow and son of the late Eli Wiesel, who continue to impact humanity through their foundation - to name a few. Every one of the many speakers highlighted the idea of the mitzvah of one Jew effects us all.
To be a Jew is to be called on to lead.