Rabbi Pinchas Avruch
Our parsha opens with the renewal of the covenant of our forefathers
Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov with the generation of the wilderness and all
of their future generations. Moshe exhorted them once again not to embrace
the corrupting philosophies and life-styles of the nations residing in the
Land of Canaan, "Perhaps there is among you a man or woman, or a family or
tribe, whose heart turns away from being with Hashem our G-d to go and
serve the gods of those nations." (Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:17) He continued,
foretelling the desolation that would come upon the Land when the Jews
would be exiled for their misdeeds.
Rashi preempts the question, "How could the masses be punished for the
conspiracy of a few rebels?" with the closing verse, "The hidden [sins] are
for Hashem our G-d, but the revealed [sins] are for us and our children
forever, to carry out all the words of this Torah." (29:28) Rashi explains
that they would not be held accountable for the innermost thoughts - the
hidden sins - of their neighbors, but the open acts of evil create a public
responsibility to uproot and destroy the negative influences in the
community. Failure to take the requisite action creates a communal
culpability. This chapter is momentous in its establishment of the concept
of "kol Yisrael araivim zeh lazeh", the interresponsibility of every Jew to
another to bolster their mitzvah observance and assist in avoiding their
The Chofetz Chaim (Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen Kagan of Radin; 1838-1933;
author of basic works in Jewish law, philosophy and ethics and renowned for
his saintly qualities) explains that this concept is most commonly utilized
to explain why one can perform a mitzvah (Divine commandment) on a friend's
behalf - such as reciting kiddush (prayer sanctifying the Sabbath or
holiday) or blowing shofar - even if he himself has already fulfilled that
mitzvah. But if there are gaps in our friend's observance, mitzvos he could
be doing that he is not or acts he should not be doing that he is, and our
reminder or encouragement or instruction would make a difference but we
fail to act, then we are held responsible for those lost mitzvah opportunities!
Rabbi Kagan offers a parable to which we can all relate. Someone has some
investment capital and he offers it to a friend who is starting a new
business venture. In keeping tabs on how the new venture is progressing,
the investor discovers his friend is dealing with an irreputable company
and stands to lose the new business before it even gets started. The
"silent partner" will surely no longer remain silent, as he expends great
effort to salvage his investment and make the business successful. We, too,
must feel that sense of investment in our friend's spiritual success.
The Chofetz Chaim encourages us to look for actions and exercises that will
safeguard us and our communities from misdeeds. But, more so, we must
actively invest - our time, our money and our selves - in our Jewish
educational institutions and synagogues, for through them our mitzvah
observance and spiritual experience are enhanced and strengthened.
Have a good Shabbos!
Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Pinchas Avruch and Project Genesis, Inc.
Kol HaKollel is a publication of the Milwaukee Kollel Center for Jewish
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