Hebrew words have profound meaning. Take for example the collective name for Jews. The significance is even deeper when one realizes that "Yisrael" is also an acronym
What could 600,000 letters have to do with Jews?
(Well, it could be said that we are all "characters"!)
When the census was taken in the desert, it was found that there were 600,000 Jews that were given the Torah. This is no coincidence, for there are 600,000 neshamot [souls] in the world. Each neshamah [soul] is connected to a letter in the Torah. When we received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, each letter in the Torah lit up for each corresponding Jew. (This gives a whole new perspective to being "a light to the nations"!) Many Jews stay up all night studying Torah on Shavuot (the Holiday in which the Torah was given) to re-live the illuminating experience.
You may notice that there are more Jews than neshamot. How could this be? One should note that Jews are never counted, we are considered one unit. How then was a census taken? Each Jew brought a half-shekel, and each coin was counted instead. This answers both questions, notice that it is a "half" and not a "whole". This is because the soul is split between husband and wife (masculine and feminine). It is really one soul that reunites through marriage. Likewise, the soul can also fragment into other bodies (so that if one body is sinning, the soul doesn't get completely destroyed— this is yet another example of Hashem's mercy). Each Jew, and our fellow Jews who have the same neshamah, collectively form "Yisrael", the one unit of 600,000 souls.
Our souls are spiritually linked to the Torah, which is the tapestry of creation. It is said that the world was created with the condition that the Jewish nation would accept the Torah. We recite "Shema" ["Hear O Israel, Hashem our G-d, Hashem is One"] twice a day. The two letters that are enlarged in most sidurim [prayer books], 'Ayin and Dalet, spell "ed" [witness]. The Sages say that this refers to our testifying to creation. How can we witness something that happened before we were alive?
It is said that Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world. We are talking about another dimension, not a physical scroll, but a spiritual essence that parallels our ephemeral Torah. The ethereal Torah of Creation was in existence 2,000 years before Creation. Our neshamot are connected to this Torah, therefore, our souls were in existence before Creation. This means that Hashem looked into our needs, and created everything specifically for us. Everything, in every generation, was prepared solely [no pun intended] for the purpose that we would come to recognize and appreciate Hashem.
Before Creation, everything was Hashem— there was no room for anything else. Hashem formed a void, a spot where He's not— that is, not-so-concentrated. That void is the universe, which allows us to be independent of Him. We could then choose to accept Him as our King, or ignore Him and go about our business thinking that He is not there. It is said that Hashem deals with His creations in the way in which they deal with Him. An atheist who believes that he will not continue after death will be granted his wish— he merely ceases to exist. This is not a punishment, just a result. The atheist never did anything to improve his connection to his soul, any good deeds having been done for the sake of man. Jews perform their deeds for the sake of heaven, and this strengthens the connection to the soul. Doing a mitzvah [good deed/commandment] lights up that letter in the Torah, and solidifies our continuation in eternity.
We are literally the center stage of creation, and a mitzvah is an act we perform in the show of creation...
Chag Sameach [Happy Holiday],
The Jewlight Staff.
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