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Friday, Elul 6, 5779 / September 6, 2019


At the end of this week's Parsha, Shoftim, the Torah teaches us about responsibility for each other. The Torah tells us, "If in the land which the L-rd your G-d gives you, there will be found a person slain in the field and it is not known who had killed him; then your elders and judges shall come forth and they shall measure the cities which are around where the body was found." 


The elders of the city closest to where the body was found had to declare, "Our hands have not shed this blood neither have our eyes seen it." They would then ask for G-d's forgiveness for the people of Israel. 


Our sages ask, would anyone think that the elders of the city have committed this crime?  Why do they have to say, 'Our hands have not shed this blood’ and ask forgiveness? 


The sages explain that this is a lesson that every Jew is responsible for the acts of another Jew. This responsibility lies foremost upon the elders of the community. Even the most righteous people are in some way responsible for the act of the murderer.


This Parsha is always read during the month of Elul.  Its lesson is especially important during this month in order that we should reflect about our responsibilities toward each other.


Even righteous people say the entire confession in the Yom Kippur prayers. Why do they ask for forgiveness for sins which they never committed.  Because we are responsible for each other.


The concept that all Jews are responsible for each other is expressed in the Talmud as follows, "Kol Yisroel Areivim Zeh Lazeh" - "All of Israel are responsible for each other." 


The word "Areivim", meaning "responsible", can also be translated as, "blended" and "sweet".   It teaches us that when Jews "blend" with each other (Ahavat Yisroel) and feel "responsible" for one another, the result is that they feel good and "sweet" about each other!


Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov explains that this is the reason that the people of Israel are at times likened in the Torah to earth.  The earth contains wonderful treasures, including gold and precious stones. Yet, they are covered with layers of sand and dirt.  In order to find these treasures, one must make the effort of digging through the layers of dirt until the treasures are found and exposed.  This may require great patience and hard work, depending on how deep they are buried.


"Everyone," says the Baal Shem Tov, "can find special treasures and hidden good in someone else.  It is only a matter of how much effort, patience and dedication we will assign to this task."




Montreal candle lighting time: 7:05 / Shabbat ends: 8:07