Yitro 5777 – I'm talking. Are you listening?
Former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, in attempting to define and explain the difference between a communal Rabbi and a Chassidic Rebbe, would humorously put it thus: When the Chassidic Rebbe speaks, his followers listen intently, with rapt attention. Every one of his valuable life lessons seems to pierce and penetrate their very essence. It is as if he is speaking directly to the listener.
When a communal Rabbi delivers his message via the sermon, the congregation listens with the same intensity (I hope!). Rather than focusing on the message as being aimed at them, they nod their heads and, with that knowing look, are convinced that they know exactly to whom the message is being directed. Certainly not to them.
In other words, the Chassidic follower is seeking change. He thirsts for a connection to the Divine. He believes implicitly that the Rebbe can, and will, help him to scale the lofty heights. He hangs onto every word and message, with the intention of self-improvement and positive transformation.
For the congregation member, it is entertainment. By and large it is part of the Shul experience.
In this week's Sidrah, we encounter the magnificent, awe-inspiring and incredible Revelation at Mount Sinai. When G-d came face to face with the jewish people and charged them with a mission: bring Heaven down to Earth. Change the world for the better. Bring a consciousness of G-d to its inhabitants. Take steady steps and make gradual progress throughout your lives so that each day is a little better than the day before.
3329 years after that incredible day, do we still hear that voice? The opening words of the 10 Commandments are "I am G-d your G-d".
The word "your G-d" is written in the singular - even as G-d was addressing millions of souls. It was deliberate. G-d spoke then - and continues to speak today - to each one of us individually.
Like the Chassidic Rebbe, we mustn't look to the next person. It is down to each one of us to make a difference and fulfil our mission. That way, it will surely get done!
RABBI MENDEL LEW