Bechukotai/Bamidbar & Shavuot/Nasso

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By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

The Talmud states that Rebbe Akiva originally had twenty-four thousand students—all of whom perished in a plague, because they did not show appropriate respect to one another. The Talmud continues: “And the world was desolate of Torah until Rabbi Akiva came to our Rabbis in the South and taught his Torah to them. This second group of disciples consisted of Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yehuda, Rabbi Yosei, Rabbi Shimon, and Rabbi Elazar ben Shamua. And these are the very ones who upheld the study of Torah at that time.”  (Yevamot 62b)

Although Rebbi Akiva’s earlier students did not survive, his later disciples were able to transmit the Torah to future generations. The five aforementioned top-quality students of Rebbe Akiva accomplished more than his twenty-four thousand prior students. High quality in low quantity is often superior to lower quality with higher quantity.

The Torah begins Parshat Bechukotai with the tremendous blessings that result from the Jewish nation following the will of God. One of the blessings is: “Five of you shall give chase to a hundred, and a hundred of you shall give chase to ten thousand; your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.” (Leviticus 26,8) If five people can chase away one hundred people (which is a ratio of 1:20), then one hundred people should succeed in scattering two thousand people. Why does the verse state that one hundred people can chase away ten thousand people? Rashi, quoting the Sifra, explains that you cannot compare the power of a few people involved in Torah to the power of many people involved in Torah. The whole becomes exponentially more powerful than the sum of its parts.

Friends, without quality we have nothing. Our charge is to strive for quality. Bringing our quality together in numbers makes us exponentially more powerful. Let us recommit ourselves to walking in God’s ways and let us unite. In that merit, Hashem will shower His infinite blessings upon us.