CLERGY CORNER: Strive to be a man

Posted on 04 October 2018 by LeslieM

On Yom Kippur, the High Priest performed the intricate and nuanced service in the Holy Temple. At the conclusion of it all, the Torah offers its final stipulation: Nobody may be present with him at the time. The High Priest must be there all by himself.

But why? Why does the Torah care so much if someone else was with him in the sacred space of the Temple?

Similarly, when G-d summons Moses to ascend Mt. Sinai to receive the second set of Tablets to bring down to the people on Yom Kippur, He instructs Moses: “Come up in the morning to Mt. Sinai… And no man should ascend with you. No man should appear on the entire mountain.”

Why? What’s the big deal if someone else ascends the mountain?

When the greatest Jewish leader is introduced to us for the first time, the Torah tells us that he left the palace where he was raised, went out to his brothers, and observed an Egyptian beating a Jew to death. The Torah says these words: “He turned here, and there, and he saw there was no man. He struck the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.”

This is the deeper meaning in the famous Mishnah in the Ethics of the Fathers, quoting the great sage Hillel: “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.”

It is the source of the expression, “Be a Man!” But what exactly is the meaning of his teaching of Hillel? If everyone around me is behaving like a beast, I should still be a Mentch? Obviously! Do I need Hillel to teach that to me?

The Chassidic masters explain that Hillel was teaching us something deeper. How do you become a real man? A real person? How do you reach your potential? If you strive to be a man, you have to imagine that there is no one else. I have a task to do right here, right now, that nobody else in the past, present, and future, can achieve.

Every man is obliged to say,” say the Sages, “the world was created for me.”

This is not narcissism. It means that I matter. I matter for real. There is something only I can achieve in the world. And the whole world is waiting for me to bring that light into the cosmos.

For what you have to do in this world, there really is no man besides you.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetian Isle Shopping Center at 2025 E. Sample Rd. in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming events, please visit

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