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 Judaism constantly stresses the importance and worth of the individual. Even though there are billions of people living on our planet, the worth of the individual should not be diminished by this fact. In the Torah reading of this week the Lord informs Moshe that it was the action of one individual – Pinchas – that saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Jews from destruction. The bold and audacious act of one individual had the power and ability to turn away, so to speak, the wrath of God from the Jewish people at a moment of crisis.

Positive acts of individuals that are bold and different do not usually result in public approval. In fact, many times that individual is roundly criticized by the general public and his behavior is seen to be incorrect, if not even immoral. Yet, after time passes and the situation can be studied and analyzed in the light of later events and circumstances, it may become apparent that the criticized action of the individual was not only correct but was and is of immense value to society.
As an example, from recent history, Menacem Begin was pilloried and criticized for having prevented Saddam Hussein from acquiring nuclear weapons. All the do-gooders of the world and the United Nations clucked in disapproval and threatened action against Israelforthis aggressive act. A decade later the world begrudgingly acknowledged that this act of seeming aggression was really one of human salvation and enormous merit. The greatness of individuals lies in the fact that some of them are willing to swim upstream and do what is right even if it is unpopular and dangerous.
One of the rites of passage into male adult Jewish life is the institution of Bar Mitzvah. In a very clear way this ancient Jewish celebration reinforces the idea of the worth of each individual Jew. When we add another individual to the Jewish nation, it is not just a matter of population and numbers. It is rather the addition of a special personality with talents that are unique to him, to a community that can and will benefit from those abilities.
In our synagogue this week a wonderful young man, Eliya Goldvicht will be called to the Torah on the day of his Bar Mitzvah. Having grown up in our synagogue for the past four years he is known and beloved to all of us because of his wonderful talents, great smile and exemplary conduct. He is an individual who will undoubtedly make a mark on the Jewish community in future years.
Simply by knowing and appreciating him, as the synagogue membership has done over these past few years, the synagogue has reaffirmed this fundamental idea of the importance, uniqueness and greatness of the individual. All Jewish history, in fact all human history, is really the story of individuals and of their great accomplishments and even some of their disappointing failures. Eliya will be a great person that we will all be proud of and be able to say to later generations that we knew him when he became Bar Mitzvah.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Berel Wein

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