Is the role of religion to stifle the singularity of one for the sake of many, for the sake of the greater community, or is religion meant to highlight one’s singular uniqueness?
Many stereotypes abound about religion being a dogmatic force that imposes mind control and is threatened by individual spirits and free inquiry. Galileo is a case in point.
And what about Judaism? Does Judaism enhance one’s individuality or does its emphasis on community effectively stamp it out?
And most of all: What does God want from us – to be like everyone else or to be unique? To be a carbon copy of our neighbors or to be like no one that has ever lived before and will ever live again? As we travel in the wildernesses of life, do we possess talents and potentials and abilities that no one else does or are we all imitations of one another?
The Israelites, as they traveled in the wilderness, were marched and camped in a strict formation. The message was clear: nation is paramount and every tribe’s place in it is clearly defined. But each tribe also raised a flag and bore a banner that exclaimed to the entire world its unique purpose and distinctive color. With the Sanctuary anchoring them in the middle, the Jews were able to be highly individualistic – and it is this individualism that blended and banded and bonded them together as one people with one purpose on one journey to one destination: the Promised Land!
Like a vineyard, formatted in rows of vines following a specific grid, whose unique and individual grapes are then blended together to form one sublimely divine vintage, the Jew too is never off the grid, but merely creating it and electrifying it with his or her individuality.
Being insecure and apologetic festers disunity and fragmentation. It is only by being outstanding and standing out that we can blend together as one!