You stand upright this day, all of you, before the L‑rd your G‑d: your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, and all the men of Israel; your little ones, your wives, and your stranger that is in your camp, from the hewer of your wood to the drawer of your water

(Devarim 29:9—10)

The Talmud (Pesachim 50a) tells the story of Rav Yosef the son of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, who fell ill and was at the brink of death when his father’s prayers brought him back to life. When he came to, his father asked him: “My son, what did you see (in heaven)?” Rav Yosef replied: “I saw an upside-down world. Those who are on top here, are on the bottom there; and those who are here regarded as lowly, are exalted in heaven.”

That the leader or the sage is superior to the wood-hewer or the water carrier is only from our earth-bound perspective, which sees a “hierarchy” of roles. But when “you all stand before G‑d” there is no higher and lower–what seems “low” here is no less lofty and significant in G‑d’s eyes.


Like the various organs and limbs of a body, each of which complements, serves and fulfills all the others, so, too, the Jewish people: the simple “wood-hewer” or “water-carrier” contributes something to each and every one of his fellow Jews, including the most exalted “head.”

(Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi)

Our Sages have said: “All Israel are guarantors for each other” (Talmud, Shevuos 39a). But a person cannot serve as a guarantor unless he is more resourceful in some way than the one he is guaranteeing. For example, a poor man obviously would not be accepted as a guarantor for a rich man’s loan. So if the Talmud says that all Jews serve as guarantors to each other, this means that in every Jew there is a quality in which he or she is superior to all others.

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

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