Friday, August 24, 2012

Jewish Jigsaw

By Michael Hirsch

There is a Talmudic concept: Every Jew is responsible for every other Jew. The exact word used to express this responsibility is "ahreiv," which if precisely defined means a guarantor, a co-signer. Think of the concept, if you will, as a business-related issue—Every Jew must act as a guarantor for every other Jew. Not just family, friends, and business associates; no, you must be prepared to co-sign a loan for someone who might be a complete stranger to you, as long as he/she is a fellow Jew!
Can it be any clearer than that?? We are all linked one-to-another. We are all pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle; our raison d'etre only comes about through the entirety of the picture. What gives meaning to our lives is the totality of the Jewish People; period!
Why this mini-dissertation as a prelude to discussing this week's Parasha, Shoftim? Because a careful reading of the closing segment in the Torah portion highlights this concept. The Parasha closes with the famous story of the "Eglah Arufa," the axed heifer. If a stranger's dead body is discovered inter-city, the elders of the city determined to be located closest to the corpse bring the axed heifer as a "sin" offering. Some commentators define the sin as allowing an environment in their locale in which total strangers can be wantonly murdered.
But others define the sin as having failed to fulfill the precept of responsibility to fellow Jews. Did the elders see to it that he had somewhere to eat, to sleep? Did they find someone to accompany him on his way, so that he would not be the victim of this heinous act? Did they act as his guarantor, his co-signer?
No, and for that reason, they must repent. The closing verse says it all: "And you shall remove the innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right/just in G-D's eyes (Deuteronomy 21:9)." Such as acting responsible for every other Jew!!

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