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Yisro: The Benefits of Responsibility

Miriam Aflalo

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rebbe says: When Bnei Yisrael stood at Har Sinai, they were all of one heart — accepting upon themselves the yoke of Heaven with happiness. As it says: And they answered, “Whatever Hashem says we will do.” Not only that, but each one persuaded the other. (Midrash Tanchuma, Yisro, 13)

The Eitz Yosef explains: They made each one responsible for the other. From where does he learn this? Because it says, “Whatever Hashem says, we will do.” It should have said, “I will do.” The fact that it said it in plural shows that each individual accepted upon himself the responsibility for his friend’s observance as well. (Rav Chaim Zeitchik, Maayanei HaChaim)

My daughter came home late from school, with her face flushed and beaming. “Mommy, you can’t imagine what gorgeous decorations we made for the bulletin board! The whole school is raving about it. I’m telling you, you never saw such a thing in your life!”

When my daughter is excited about something, you can pour all the ice in Antarctica on her, and she still won’t cool down.

“We took the topic of Perek Shirah,” she continued to bubble, “and we made each animal in 3-D, accented with colored stones. After that, we painted the background with a huge view of trees and a river. It looks completely real! Like all the animals are in their natural habitat!”

I have known my daughter from the moment she was born, and she is no artist. She’d have no idea how to sculpture animals in 3-D, nor how to paint a single tree. I assumed that her “job” was to get supplies and wash out paintbrushes. She probably popped in to compliment progress every few minutes and then went to run another errand. But she was a part of the “action,” so the final product was hers as well. When she described it, she said, “We made, and we painted.” And that was enough to get her excited. She truly felt the connection to her class.

The Or HaChaim asks: Why did Hashem decree that we should be responsible for one another? In actuality, it’s for our own benefit. Hashem gave us 613 mitzvos and it’s not possible for every individual in Klal Yisrael to do every single one. Not everyone merits doing pidyon haben, or even Bircas Kohanim.

There are a lot of things that I’ve wanted to accomplish, but have no idea how to manage it. I’ve always dreamed of saying Tehillim on a daily basis. Yet, every day I am surrounded by sweet treasures that are always thirsty or hungry. If I have some spare time, I should make sure I daven Shacharis properly. But Tehillim every day? Dream on!

How about doing hafrashas challah? That dream glows brightly; but I work on Thursdays and Fridays. And besides, my husband prefers store-bought challos. And I would love to volunteer to make meals for the needy. Or to give huge amounts of tzedakah. I envision myself hosting loads of guests for Shabbos, or even taking in a foster child! Or at least sending care packages to my sons in yeshivah.

Said Hashem to Bnei Yisrael: You are all one nation. If you stick together, without machlokes between you, then every mitzvah that an individual does, is considered like the whole nation did it. And in this manner, we all merit to fulfill all 613 mitzvos.

This thought calms me. My dreams can materialize.

My mother-in-law bakes challos every Erev Shabbos. And my neighbor always hosts tons of guests. And my daughter’s best friend in preschool is a foster child.

The responsibility of Judaism ties me with a rope of eternity — the responsibility that we all received at Har Sinai.

However, the question remains: Do I feel connected to my mother-in-law? And to my neighbor, and my daughter’s best friend’s mother? Or is there perhaps a feeling of superiority? Or threads of conflict blowing in the wind?

When there is no achdus between Yisrael, then each individual’s mitzvos remain his alone, and all of Bnei Yisrael cannot fulfill all 613 mitzvos. (Or HaChaim)

My daughter’s eyes are still bright with excitement over her afternoon. And my eyes? They are bright with tears, tears of longing, to connect with all those around me, and to share in their mitzvos.

When there is achdus and responsibility for one another, there is no happiness and richness to compare to it in the whole world. It’s a brachah from Olam HaBa.

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