Up to the time of Sinai, the role each person had in completing the creation pertains to himself alone. Mankind operates as a set of individuals.
The Torah mandates a new approach for the Jewish people whereby they take an oath to become bonded together in a teamwork relationship. Every person is responsible. Every person must accept the consequences for both his/her own behavior and for that of every other Jew. This pertains to both infractions as well as acts of merit.
We can better understand this with the following example.
Picture a huge net that has millions of holes. Each hole is large enough to surround a person. The net is laid flat on an open field. Hundreds of thousands of people are within the net, which is held waist-high.
The object of the game is to move the net across a finish line. It's easy if everyone cooperates and walks together in the right direction.
If we impose a rule that everyone must cooperate, then this becomes difficult. It becomes very difficult if the game is stretched out over several thousand years, some participants are rebellious, and we can't tell how close we are to the finish line.
G-d promises that he will manage events so that someday the Jewish people will find themselves over the finish line.
Due to our interrelationship, we find a number of times in the Torah where harsh criticism is levied against the Jewish people for the misdeeds of a minority or even of an individual.
For example, only a half of a percent of the nation actually worshipped the Golden Calf (Exodus 12:37 and 32:28) and yet the Jews were almost destroyed because of it (Exodus 32:10).
In another example, the Book Of Joshua (7:11) makes the following censure of the Jewish people: "Israel has sinned, they have also transgressed my covenant that I have commanded them, they also took (from the) banned items, they also stole and lied and put (/hid banned items) in their containers." A few verses later we find that the sole reason for this condemnation was that a single person named Achan, disregarded the ban on taking spoils from the war of Jerico.
By relating the Bibles harsh condemnations with the Jewish peoples oath of mutual responsibility, we can reconcile G-ds affection and His commitment of allegiance to the Jewish people with the condemnations/tribulations found in the Bible.
During their early history when the Jewish people possessed abundant spiritual resources, they paid dearly for these bonds. Each sin and its consequences became greatly magnified, even when transgressed by a few.
Towards the end of their history, stripped of most of their resources and weakened by a dark exile, they and all of Mankind will thus be able to benefit from the merits of a small group who remain loyal despite the difficulties. In the same way that the Jewish people were held responsible for the failure of the few, in the end they will gain benefit from the achievement of a few.
In disregarding the public ban, Achan failed to appreciate the significance of the bonding and mutual responsibility. He repented and shortly before his death, in a vision of the future Messianic period he authors the following prayer that is said to this day at the conclusion of every service.
|"We thus hope of You, our G-d, to soon see the glory of Your power. When all statues shall be removed from the Earth and idolatry will be completely destroyed. When the world will be established under the Kingdom of the A-lmighty and all flesh will call out to your name. All the wicked of the Earth shall turn to you. All shall know and recognize that to You alone all knees will bend, will all oaths be made. Before You they shall bow and fall; to the honor of Your name they shall give esteem. They shall all accept your Kingdom and you shall swiftly reign over them forever. For Kingdom is Yours and for eternity shall You reign in glory, as it states in the Your Torah, "G-d shall reign for all eternity (Exodus 15,18)."|
Besides being one of our oldest prayers, this provides one of our earliest descriptions of the Messianic era, which we shall discuss towards the end of our tour of Jewish history.
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