The Midrash Tanhuma quotes: “I have given you good teaching” (Prov. 4:2
). [The term lekah (teaching) can also refer to something acquired by purchase.] It offers a parable of two merchants, one who has silk and the other peppers. Once they exchange their goods, each is again deprived of that which the other has. But if there are two scholars, one who has mastered the Order of Zera’im and the other who knows the Order of Mo’ed, once they teach each other, each has both orders. The point is that each one of Israel has a particular portion within Torah, yet it is also Torah that joins all our souls together. That is why Torah is called “perfect, restoring the soul” (Ps. 19:8
). We become one through the power of Torah; it is “an inheritance of the assembly of Jacob” (Deut. 33:4
). We receive from one another the distinctive viewpoint that belongs to each of us… The same was true in the building of the mishkan. Each one gave his own offering, but they were all joined together by the tabernacle, until they became one. Only then did they merit the Shechinah’s presence.
This text was compiled by Rabbis J. Rolando Matalon, Marcelo Bronstein and Felicia Sol of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York, NY, for Rabbi Matalon’s teaching on the American Jewish World Service Rabbinical Student Delegation. Their work was based on and inspired by The Dignity of Difference by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.