On The Uniqueness of Each Individual Jew

The very first pasuk of parshat Shemot states:

And these are the names of the Children of Israel who came to Egypt with Yaakov; each man and his household came.

The Torah proceeds to list the names of eleven of the sons of Yaakov; then a reference to Yosef living in Mitzrayim concludes the segment (Rashi explains why Yosef was singled out).

The Torah previously listed Yaakov’s sons by name during their lifetime (see Bereshit 35:23-26, 46:8-27 (also identifying the grandchildren), and 49:1-28). Rashi picks up on this and notes that Hashem also counted Yaakov’s sons after their deaths to show how precious they were to Him. Rashi adds that the counting was done by name because Yaakov’s sons are compared to the stars, which Hashem also counts by number and by name.

In his sefer Ta’am V’Da’as, Rav Sternbuch seeks to understand the analogy between Yaakov’s sons and the stars. He explains that just as each star has a specific purpose in the cosmic scheme that differentiates it from all other stars, so too each Jew has his or her special purpose in life as expressed through his or her unique soul.

Let’s develop this concept of the uniqueness of the individual Jew.

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