And they encamped in the Wilderness and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain [Sinai] #(19:2)

As we have seen, the narration that precedes the giving of the Torah is more than just historical. It indicates the prerequisites of Torah.

Rashi points out that the Hebrew word for encamped is vayichan, he camped, rather than vayachanu, they camped. Furthermore, the Ten Commandments were also spoken in the singular, Anochi Hashem Elokecha, your God in the singular, rather than the plural elokeichem. The singular form of the verb is utilized because there was such complete unity among the Israelites that they were like one person, hence the entire nation could be addressed in the singular.

The Torah was given to each individual, and every person is required to fulfill the 613 mitzvot. It is obvious that technically this is impossible. There are some mitzvot whose performance is restricted to Kohanim (priests), which Yisrael cannot perform. A person whose firstborn child is a girl cannot fulfill the mitzvah of pidyon haben (redemption of the firstborn son). Mitzvot that apply to judges do not apply to lay people. How can any single person fulfill all 613 mitzvot?

Torah scholars have provided the answer. When a person puts on the tefillin (phylacteries) on his arm and head, it is not just the arm and head that have the mitzvah, but the whole person. Similarly, when people are united, they are as one, and a mitzvah performed by one person is shared by those with whom one is united.

How tragic that we have allowed ourselves to be divisive. Fragmentation not only weakens our nation, but deprives a person of acquiring the merit of those mitzvot which he is unable to perform.

Every human trait may have positive applications, even something as repulsive as selfishness. We should realize that eliminating the divisiveness that reigns among us is not merely altruistic. It is of inestimable personal benefit.

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Rabbi Avraham Twerski, who passed away Sunday, Jan 31, 18 of Shevat. May his soul be bound in the bonds of life.