The Individual and the Whole
by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
The holiest Jewish object is the Sefer Torah - the Torah scroll. In this scroll there are six hundred thousand letters. For a Torah to be kosher every letter must be carefully written. Each letter is a critical part of the whole Torah. If one letter is missing the entire Torah scroll is invalid.
At the same time the laws of the Torah scroll state that each letter must stand on its own, surrounded by empty space. If a letter is slightly connected to another, even with a thin ink mark, this too invalidates the scroll.
Our sages teach that there are six hundred thousand categories of Jewish souls. Each of us possesses a soul that corresponds to one of the Torah letters.
For our souls to develop and succeed they must reflect the two laws of the Torah scroll. On the one hand we all need to understand our responsibility to the greater community. We are a part of the whole and cannot exclude ourselves from our collective responsibility. When we act irresponsibly we affect everyone. We don't act in a vacuum, and whatever we do must be good both for ourselves and for others.
But we are also individuals. Each of us has a unique contribution and a special way of making a difference. The world is a better place because we don't all do the same thing. Everyone can shine brightly with their own personality. Our individuality needs to be appreciated and protected. Each of us has different personalities, talents and strengths that must be nurtured in their own special way.
We are all responsible to each other, but we are special in our own way.