Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Collective Responsibility

"A man or woman who commits any of man's sins.... they shall confess their sin.... he shall make restitution for his guilt."   [Naso 5:6,7]

One erev Yom Kippur, R' Moshe Chagiz delivered a derashah in which he said "In Parshas Naso it states: "A man or woman... they shall confess... he shall make restitution for his guilt". The verse begins in the singular, switches to the plural, and then concludes by reverting to the singular. This is to teach us that all Jews form one nation and we are all responsible for one another.

"They shall confess" - on Yom Kippur, an individual is not only required to confess his own sins, but even the sins of his fellow Jew.

To what can this be compared? To a group of individuals who set sail together on a large and magnificent ship. Each one of the passengers received his own quarters for the duration of the trip.

When they had reached the very heart of the sea, one of the passengers began to drill a hole in the wall of the ship.

"What are you doing?" yelled his friends. "You are going to sink the ship!"

"Why is this any concern of yours?" he asked them. "I am making a hole in my quarters, not yours."

"All Jews are responsible for one another" concluded R' Chagiz. "If one Jew sins, the entire Jewish nation is held accountable."

"It is incumbent upon every Jew to keep this great responsibility in mind."

[written by Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein]

If you can understand the above words, you should also be able to understand the entire Torah, which can be summed up in these words from Hillel: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah while the rest is commentary".

It sounds so simple, and yet so many have so much trouble with it. It seems to be the hardest thing of all for so many Jews.

If you call yourself a "Torah-observant Jew", but you still treat others badly, then I would like to suggest to you that you are not what you claim to be. What is the point of doing all the mitzvos if you cannot even achieve the basic criteria for a "Torah Observant Jew" ?

One of the first questions we are asked upon death is "were you honest in business" - and the answer to that question can tell us a great deal about how we treated others. If you knowingly cheated someone, overcharged him or short-changed him, you are treating him with the utmost disrespect. You are harming him financially, you have lied to him, you have deceived him. You have behaved in a manner totally contrary to Torah - because it can only be assumed that you would not treat yourself that way, and yet you find it okay to do so to others. If you sincerely did not do to others what is hateful to you, you would never even consider cheating in business affairs.

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