Parshas Nitzavim: We Are All Responsible for Each Other
This weekend was the Festival of the Winds at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia. We’re living nearby so it’s usually really exciting when these events happen because I can just walk down to the beach and I don’t have to fight for parking. But this weekend I saw the opposite side of this coin: I had to go out in the morning and when I returned in the afternoon, I couldn’t find anywhere to park the car. I finally got a spot, which was so small that I could barely fit the car in and I even had to get help parking it.
Later, I made a comment to a friend who was with me that I had no idea how I would get my car back out unless the car that was parked (illegally) behind me moved. She asked how the other cars parked on the street would get out and I replied that this wasn’t my concern – they would have to figure it out themselves!
Wait – what?
I guess this is a good opportunity to practice for Yom Kippur, when we make public confessions. I have to confess to making this flippant response that, unfortunately, seems to be the predominant attitude our “me-me-me” self-centered society. But the Torah teaches us that this is really the wrong attitude. This is not a Jewish attitude!
This week’s parsha starts out saying “You are standing firmly today, all of you together, before G-d, your G-d – the heads of your tribes, your elders, your police officers (standing in front of) every Jewish person: your young children, your women, and the convers within your camp (who were assigned positions ranging) from your woodcutters to your water-drawers – in order to bring you into the covenant of G-d, your G-d, and His oath, which G-d, your G-d, is making with you today.” Why does it go to the trouble of saying “all of you together” when it is then going on to list “every Jewish person?” The Torah doesn’t waste words.
It’s coming to teach us that we are all standing together. As Jews, we are all responsible for one another. It’s an awesome responsibility. If you have a friend who is not keeping to the Torah, you are responsible for helping them get back on the path. It doesn’t matter how near or how far, we are all responsible for one another.
This is really the correct attitude to have. Think of how nice it is when someone does something incredibly considerate for you. When your hands are full and someone rushes ahead to get the door for you, or when someone gives up a great parking space for you because they see you have a baby. When someone knows you’ve had a rough week and shows up with dinner so you don’t have to cook, or when someone makes a full pot of coffee for the whole office instead of just making one cup. Think of how beautiful the world would be if we always took others into account.
This is what the Torah asks of us. To do the right thing not just when it is good for yourself, but simply when it is the right thing to do, because it benefits the entire Jewish people.
And think of how good it will feel, knowing you’re doing something good for all of klal Yisroel. Even if you are just doing a “little” mitzvah, one that doesn’t seem to make a big difference, you can know that it really does make a big difference. Because it helps all of the Jewish people.
And in these times, right before we are judged and sealed, we all need whatever help we can get.
Shana tova and Shabbat shalom!
Read more about Parshas Nitzavim: How the World Sees the Jews