Friday, September 3, 2021

Responsible for Each Other

The final Shabbos of the Jewish Calendar boasts one feature that does not change from year to year. We always read the Parsha of Nitzavim. What is it about this Parsha of a mere forty verses that make it required reading for the final Shabbos of every year? There are various fundamental themes in Judaism that include Free Will and Teshuva that are recorded in Nitzavim. I will highlight one central theme of the Parsha, which is necessary to internalize before bringing in the New Year. These words feature an unusual characteristic marking above the written words in the Torah. It has several dots above these words. Indeed, if you look into a Sefer Torah, you will see these dots above the words וְהַנִּגְלֹת לָנוּ וּלְבָנֵינוּ עַד־עוֹלָם. This is translated as the “revealed are to our children and us forever.” This is a continuation of the beginning of the verse  “ the hidden belongs to Hashem our G-d.” The deeper meaning here is that the private action of Man is under the purview of the Al-Mighty, for better or worse. However, what Man does in public is the responsibility of the Jewish Nation. The Rabbis have interpreted this to mean that we are responsible for one another. In Hebrew, this dictum is famous as כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה. The literal translation is that we are the guarantors of one another. The role of a guarantor carries great responsibility. It reflects a legal commitment for the borrower who committed a liability. The Chofetz Chaim writes that if a guarantor sees the borrower act in a financially irresponsible maaner, he will be worried as ultimately he assumes responsibility. Similarly, the Chofetz Chaim wrote that if we see the majority of Jews estranged from Torah Judaism, then we bear the responsibility for that. It is unfortunate for us to shrug our shoulders when hearing about the deteriorating numbers of Jews engaged in Judaism. It’s incumbent for every one of us to be the best ambassadors that we can be for G-d and Torah Judaism. The notion of being responsible and a guarantor has brought out the best in Jews over the years. We most recently witnessed it with the collapse of the Surfside towers. Immediately after the tragedy, a group of Israeli soldiers boarded a plane to travel to the other side of the world to assist in a most daunting challenge. That is being a guarantor to the highest degree. As we read the final Parsha of the year, it is a timely reminder that ultimately we are all in this together.  Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch   

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