A Drash for Ekev 5769
by Marc Mangel
(Context: Susan broke her kneecap in half on 31 Jan 2009 and it was a long and slow recovery, during which we did not go to synagogue)
I rarely discuss personal matters in a drash, but today is an exception. I speak for both Susan and myself in saying that we are delighted to return to KT after more than 6 months. We greatly appreciate the support – emotional, moral, and physical – that you provided to us during this time and especially in the first two months following her injury.
As it happens, this week’s Torah portion is relevant to our return. In Chapter 11, verses 13-21 we have the second paragraph of the Shma. One of the things to note about these verses is that the Torah goes back and forth between singular and plural.
About this going back and forth, the Isbizter (R Mordechair Yosef of Isbitza) wrote “At the time of giving of the Torah, all Israel were equal, but with time the impression that the words of Torah make in the hearts of people is different and every mind is unique.” Thus the plural refers to the giving of Torah since all received it equally; the singular refers to the unique way in which each person responds to the Torah. The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that some of the Torah is intended for the individual Jew and some of the Torah for the community.
The use of singular and plural in the same paragraph – even the same sentence – has a powerful message in our modern time, and for us now as we march inexorably towards and prepare for the Days of Awe. Our prayer and practice must be done as individuals – yet when we do it completely alone it lacks something intangible that is provided only by being with the community. At the same time community activity – without the private time for prayer, introspection, and study –prevents the full development of our potential as individuals.
In Ekev it is singular and plural; at KT it is the individual and the community. One is not more than the other – the two are entwined together and it is through the community supporting the individual and the individuals creating the community that our most inspired Jewish practice is achieved.