We are striving to love our fellow Jews by improving the way we interact with others
Last week’s Stretch of the Week: Call, write, or express through prayer, the gratitude you have towards your parents (or other parental figures) for anything they have done for you during your lifetime.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
All Jews are Responsible for One Another
(Kol Yisrael Araivim Ze La'ze)
From the time of the Jewish people received the Torah at Mount Sinai, every Jew became responsible for his fellow Jew’s Torah observance. Therefore, when one person sins openly and those who witness this are capable of protesting but refrain from doing so, they are held accountable for the sin.
Our Torah observance is so closely linked to that of our fellow Jews that one Jew can make a blessing on behalf of another to fulfill a Torah even if he himself has already fulfilled his obligation. For the same reason, it is sometimes preferable for a person to fulfill a mitzvah in more of a minimal form, if doing so without stringencies will enable another Jew to be motivated to fulfill the mitzvah as well.
No one is exempt from this requirement, not even a holy and learned person. Even if he already learns, teaches and observes all of the commandments, both positive and negative; he still carries a responsibility to promote the Torah observance of the entire Jewish people.
(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
I am your typical Jewish woman. I’m not a role model or pillar of kindness, just a regular person. I’ve always tried to grow and improve, yet nothing can compare to the “growth spurt” I had four years ago.
I was in the kitchen when I suddenly heard screams coming from the room next door. “Mommy! Mommy! Come fast! Jake just fell out of the window!” my daughter shouted.
“What?” I thought to myself. “How could Jake have fallen out of the window? Who could have opened it? The children are too young to pull it up let alone maneuver a chair next to the wall, climb up, and fall out?!”
I quickly ran to the room and, to my utter shock and dismay, saw an open window. I anxiously ran to the other side of the room, peered out the window and saw my young son lying on the front lawn appearing to be semi-conscious. I dashed down the stairs, ran out the front door, and found my beautiful young child limp and lifeless. After what seemed to be an eternity, the ambulance arrived and raced Jake to the hospital. I had never been so scared in my life.
The next hour was a whirlwind of doctors, cat scans and tremendous fear and doubt. My son had sustained significant head injuries that were life threatening. I sat in the emergency room, praying like I had never done before. As each ER physician would see my little boy’s head and sigh, I felt an intense pain that can not be compared to anything else I’ve ever experienced. It was from this place of pain that I prayed fervently to G-d, begging him to heal my son. I even offered to subtract ten years off of my own life if He would spare Jake’s.
Miraculously, over the next week, Jake began to show signs of improvement but the doctors were not yet sure whether or not he would suffer from brain damage. As we prayed and hoped over the following weeks and months we began to see Jake get better. The following months had us running from doctor to doctor and test to test but, by the same time the next year, thank G-d, my son had completely recovered.
Jake returned to school and life slowly, but surely, returned to normal. There was one thought I could not stop dwelling on though. The prayer I made to G-d about taking away ten years of my life was starting to scare me. Was I really thinking clearly when I said that? I just wanted Jake to get better, no matter what it would take. I feared for my life and the power of my request. My husband encouraged me to seek rabbinic advice. I made an appointment and within a few days found myself sitting in front of a very special and wise rabbi. After explaining my dilemma, the Rabbi thought for a few minutes and then gave his advice. He expressed that the path to “buying” back the ten years of my life was by doing acts of kindness for others. He explained that I should commit to helping with these issues using my personal strengths and talents and devote ten years of my life to doing this to replace the ten years I had “given away”. He mentioned that I did not have to act on my plan immediately but should make the commitment and this would free myself from my plea bargain.
This was a novel concept to me as I was accustomed to mainly thinking about my inner circle of family and friends. Because I hadn’t really thought about helping my community or others I didn’t know well, I wasn’t sure how to best channel my efforts. After months of thought, and several hours of discussion with various friends, I realized that there were numerous issues that needed to be addressed. While there certainly were so many noble causes and pathways to helping others, I decided that my personal mission would be to encourage as many people as possible to learn and grow in their love of fellow Jews.
I have just started my ten-year commitment and I feel exhilarated. This exercise has stretched me and enabled me to grow in ways I never knew were possible. To think about others and really care about how I can help with my own talents and abilities has helped broaden my mind and expand my thinking. Even though I know that in my case I am extremely motivated to fulfill these ten years with all my heart, I feel that if everyone would care about the Jewish people and would think about what they personally could do to show Hashem they care about His children, He surely would bless their efforts and intentions with success.
Discussion Question Options:
What are the greatest issues facing your community today?
In what ways can people take simple steps to help the Jewish people as a whole? (The intention here is not to state labels, only to stress inclusion.)
Should we even bother thinking about the big issues that affect the Jewish people if we feel we can’t do anything about them?
Stretch of the Week:
Brainstorm ways that you can help your community and/or the Jewish people by using your own set of unique talents and abilities.