“What role does each individual Jew who lives an ‘ordinary’ life play in the chosen collective that is Klal Yisrael?
Just as all the mitzvot and all the spiritual and moral imperatives are imposed upon every individual Jew without exception, so too is the potential for greatness the heritage of every Jew.
Not only is it an attribute of the Jewish collective, but it is engraved on the being, on the soul of every single Jew.
The deepest understanding of this characteristic of each Jewish neshomah (soul) is found in the Torat HaKabbalah, the mystical aspect of Torah instruction, as it is expounded upon and interpreted through the teachings of Rabbi Schneur Zalman, founder of Chabad, who is reverently known as the Alter Rebbe.
In the Alter Rebbe’s approach, the greatness of the Jewish people and their uniqueness begins with, and is composed of, the hidden strength in every Jew, no matter how low he has sunk, and no matter how sinful he be.
It is this hidden strength that makes even such a Jew ready to give up his life: to die when forced to choose between renouncing his Jewishness or losing his life.
This power to withstand the ultimate test of human endurance, to give one’s life so as not to compromise the collective Jewish holiness, is the manifestation of the uniqueness of the nation as a collective, and the Jew as an individual.
This capacity is not confined to the great and the wise among our people; it is shared by every Jew, great and small, learned or illiterate, even by a Jew who has throughout his lifetime turned his back on all of the Torah imperatives and led a life virtually devoid of mitzvot.
A Jew, given the option of choosing the publicly denying of God and renouncing his Jewishness, or death, will choose to die rather than cut off his neshomah from Klal Yisrael.”
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From The Strife of the Spirit by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz