Collective punishment and mutual responsibilty-Parshas Nitzavim/Vayeilech

“הנסתרות לה’ אלקינו והנגלות לנו ולבנינו עד עולם ”

“Hidden things are for Hashem, our G-d; and the revealed things, are for us and our children forever”

The Torah has already told us that we are all responsible for one another, and that when one see’s someone doing something wrong, he is obligated to rebuke him, gently, in a way that he will want to listen.

If one fails to do so, or does so in a way that makes him more rebellious or shames him unnecessarily, one shares some responsibility for his wrong-doing. (Vayikra/Leviticus 19/17 and commentaries there-on )

In the parsha we just read, Hashem warns us once again that people who forsake the ways of Hashem can bring collective destruction upon all of us. (Devarim/Deuteronomy 29/17-27)

After the Torah tells us that the result of people who betray Hashem’s covenant can be catastrophic for all of us, people might feel that if we all responsible for each-other’s numerous  failings most of which we are  unaware of, then there is no hope for any of us , G-d forbid.

To this- the answer is clear:

We are NOT responsible for things that we have no way of knowing about, or things that we have tried to correct and failed- “Hidden things are for Hashem, our God.”

However, failure to protest constructively against wrongs and  injustice , once one is aware of it, is the moral  equivalence of participation in it – “The revealed things are for us and our children forever…”

Standing up for whats right vs responsible speach

There has been much debate in the community about Jews attacking one another in public.

It is truly disturbing that this is happening so much and being exploited by our enemies.

However, just like crooks and child abusers love to hide behind “loshon horoh” and rogue Rabbis love to hide behind “kavod Talmid Chochom” to avoid justice, those who are hurting their own people from within love to hide behind “Jewish unity” to keep their public image and support.

and just like the Halacha is clear that the laws of loshon horo do not apply when there is risk to someone else involved, and the laws of honouring a Talmid Chochom are pushed aside when that Talmid chochom is involved in public abominable behavior, so too, it is clear that when someone publically betrays his own people, he is to be shamed in public.

Our prophets never held back from publically rebuking the people when they were out of line.
some of them were persecuted or even killed for it, but who did history show to be right?

When my father attacked Jews who didn’t do enough to fight Apartheid from the pulpit, he was told not to make Jews look bad in public- who did history vindicate?

yet we must proceed with great caution and great יראת שמים and balance everything we do very carefully.

In the era of social media, very little is private anymore.
Everyone has to be careful what they post or even say or do in front of others, and know that it could be shared, screen-shot, and quoted everywhere.

It is a fine-line I tread with great trepidation, and ask my friends to hold my hand when I waver.

As Chazal warned us so long ago  וכל מעשיך בספר נכתבים
“and all your deeds are being written in  a book”
(Avos 2/1)

To influence others positively , you need to fear G-d.

To influence others positively , you need to fear G-d.

ואמר רבי חלבו אמר רב הונא: כל אדם שיש בו יראת שמים – דבריו נשמעין, שנאמר: סוף דבר הכל נשמע את האלהים ירא וגו’.

“and Rabbi Helbo said in the name of Rav Huna: Any man who has fear of heaven- his words will be heard, as it says [Kohelet 12] “at the end of the matter, everything will be heard, Fear G-d…”

(Brachos 6a)

 

Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook זצ”ל once sent one of his students to convince the government not to destroy a Jewish settlement. He came back unsuccessful.

Rabbi Kook admonished his student, telling him that he must lack fear of heaven, as the Talmud clearly says that someone who has real fear of heaven will be able to convince people to do the right thing.

[Heard from Rabbi David Samson]

Whether one agrees with Rav Zvi Yehuda or not on the matter discussed , the message is clear.

If we want people to listen to us, we need to believe. We need to be genuine.

If people don’t listen to me even when I am right , I obviously have only myself to blame.

The Chofetz Chaim and Apartheid

“All human beings are God’s children”

The Ponovizer Rov, Rav Kahanaman zt’l used to visit South Africa a lot as he had relatives there and the Jewish community there has mainly Lithuanian roots.

He once visited the Chofetz Chaim zt’l after one of these visits, and the Chofetz Chaim asked him about how the black people in south Africa were doing and that he had heard they were being persecuted.

Rav Kahanaman asked the Chofetz Chaim what his interest was in south african affairs.

The Chofetz Chaim replied that they are also G-d’s people and he needs to be concerned about their welfare.
(heard from Rabbi Abraham Tanzer שליטא , Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva College of South Africa)

Science and Torah- age of the universe?

Scientists just admitted that they got the age of the earth wrong by 60 million years! because of  few crystals found in South Africa nd Australia. and we supposed to take science seriously as a real challenge to our G-d given Torah? I’m all for reconciling Torah and science wherever possible, but give me a break!

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/06/14/newser-earth-60-million-years-older/10518499/

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Sheltering versus Immunizing

Children need to be trained to be passionate Torah Jews in a modern setting, not sheltered from modernity so they cannot face it.

this does not mean that we should expose our kids to everything bad and dangerous in the world- just like we wouldn’t allow them to drive without a driver’s license, or drive through a war-zone even with a license, we have to give our kids sensible boundaries as we train them for life.

Common Sense and much guidance needs to be used in order to find a balance between these two essential goals.