At one of the gatherings of his chassidim, Rav Naphtali of Rupshitz shared a story and lesson from his childhood. When the rebbe was a little child he was somewhat impatient and often bored in cheider (the shiur classroom).
When learning the Aleph Bet the melamed slowly went through each letter and how it is meant to be pronounced depending of the vowel. Young Naphtali got bored very quickly and tried to liven things up by making some jokes and attempting to put smiles on his classmates’ faces.
He pointed to the letter yud י and said to the melamed “is that really a letter, it looks like a simple dot. You must be kidding us.” The melamed turned very serious and said to young Naphtali “that dot is not only a letter but the most important letter! Because if you take a two yids (Yiddish pronunciation of yud and also the word for Jew in Yiddish) and put them together you get the Shem Hashem (name of God).
Young Naphtali was enchanted by the idea, tucked it away in his brain, and let the melamed continue.
Some days had passed and it was finally time to open up a chumash and learn how to read inside. Naphtali was called on to read and after reading the first pasuk said Hashem, he then read a second pasuk and said Hashem, still a third pasuk and said Hashem. The melamed stopped him and asked “Naphtali why are you saying Hashem at the end of every pasuk. Naphtali was bewildered and reminded the melamed that he had taught the class that two dots make up G-d's Name, Shem Hashem. Naphtali was seeing every sof pasuk (the colon at the end of every verse) as two yids and therefore read it as Shem Hashem.
The melamed calmly explained to Naphtali “no my sweet child, you misunderstood.” Only when the two “yids” are next to each other, side by side, only then does it form the Shem Hashem. But if one yid is trying to climb on top of another, if there is competition and strife displayed by the two “yidden,” it will never lead to Shem Hashem and the presence of the Divine.
Rav Naphtali turned to his chassidim and explained to them. Yidden, we are capable of great accomplishments. We can be a vehicle to deliver God’s word to humanity, to make this world a habitat for His divine presence, but only if we work together side by side. If we allow strife, struggle, and divisiveness into our midst, if we allow hostility, friction, and antagonism to rule over us we will become derailed and not succeed.
One of the most notable psukim in this week’s parasha is “ויחן שם ישראל נגד ההר” - Israel encamped there in front of the mountain (shmot 19:2). Rashi quotes the midrash noting that the word ויחן is perplexing because it is referring to an act done by the entire people of Israel, over 3 million people, and yet it is in the singular as if performed by an individual.
The Midrash explains that the use of the singular is invoked here because the entire nation was united as one. One people united with one heart. Due to this singular union and integration, we merited to receive the Torah. We experienced divine revelation and direct communication with God. It was a point in time in history were we had “yidden” side by side and consequently we merited having Shem Hashem.
May we learn to put aside our differences, come together as one to attain that same sense of camaraderie we experienced at Har Sinai, and bring about an increased awareness of Hashem.