Responsible One for Another: Society Response on Ask the Rabbi
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Responsible One for Another

I am involved in Jewish communal work and it really makes me crazy when I see one Jewish group disparaging another. Even worse, people will look at a situation of need and say, “Oh, that’s not my problem!” Why can’t we work together!?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

The Jewish people are considered as one “organism.” What happens to one limb affects the entire body.

Every Jew recognizes that all the Jewish People are bound together. When there's a terrorist attack in Israel, we all feel it. The Talmud says "Kol Yisrael areivim zeh la-zeh" – Every Jew is responsible one for another.

The story is told of the religious man who died and went to heaven. There, he appeared before the Heavenly Tribunal to hear a listing of his good deeds and bad. The man was quite satisfied to hear of all his mitzvahs. But he was shocked to have included amongst his transgressions the prohibition of eating pork.

"What?!" the man protested, "but I never once ate pork!"

"True," spoke the Tribunal, "but for 20 years you lived next door to a man who ate pork, and you never made an effort to discuss it with him. For that, you are responsible."

The Chasidic writings compare this to a wealthy person who needs to warm himself in the winter. He could build a fire – in which case everyone in the room would benefit. But instead he warms only himself with a heavy coat and blankets. In both cases he's warmed; the only question is to what degree he's concerned about others.

Rabbi Motty Berger of Aish HaTorah once spoke to a group of Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem. He told them: "When I was a child, I would look at my grandparents and wonder, what were they doing during the Holocaust? The fact that millions of Jews were being placed into ovens was no secret; these horrors were reported regularly on the front page of the New York Times. So I wondered... were my grandparents out raising money to help ransom Jews? Were they organizing secret rescue efforts? Were they demanding media attention and marching on Washington?"

Then Rabbi Berger continued: "Today there is a grave problem threatening the Jewish people: Assimilation. Every year, 50,000 young Jews are opting out of the Jewish people. Lost to us forever. So what are we going to do about it? Because one day, our own grandchildren are going to look at us and wonder..."

Today there are many fine organizations committed to helping Jews in all area of need: building communities in Israel, connecting young Jews with their heritage, confronting the physical threats to Jews worldwide. Everyone needs to do there part, and everyone needs to support each other. Otherwise, we are losing the battle.

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