A week from Sunday we will be hearing the sound of the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. The likelihood is that the Baal Toke’a – the one who blows for the congregation, will blow again later that day for someone else who couldn’t come to shul. The JET Shofar blowing and Tashlich program takes place in the afternoon. Rabbi Altonaga will have already blown that morning. How can he fulfill the Mitzvah for someone else if he is no longer obligated himself?
In Parsha Nitzavim the Torah says, “The hidden matters are Hashem’s and the revealed matters are ours and our children’s forever” (29:28). This verse is the source of the principle that all of Israel are guarantors for one another. Every Jew is responsible for one another. Rashi comments that the meaning of the verse is that when a person sins privately, Hashem will deal with that individual. When a person sins openly and we are all aware and do nothing to prevent him from continuing to transgress, then we also bear responsibility and are held accountable for that individual’s sins.
The Chofetz Chaim points out that when the Jewish people agreed to accept the Torah at Mount Sinai, they accepted to uphold the Torah to the best of their ability and that included ensuring that everyone followed the Torah. In this manner we became guarantors for each other. It is for this reason that I can fulfill an obligation for someone else even if I have already done the Mitzvah myself. If another person has not yet fulfilled the Mitzvah, then it is like I have not fully completed my Mitzvah and I can do it for them. In the same vein, if we have the ability to prevent someone else from committing a sin and we don’t, we are responsible.
Why is the term guarantor used for our responsibility for one another? Imagine you agreed to be a guarantor of a loan for your friend. You then find out that he is about to make a very risky investment that will likely cause him to lose a large sum of money. You realize that you will be on the hook. If he loses the money, he won’t be able to repay the loan and you will be on the hook for it. You will do everything you can to convince him not to make the risky investment. Similarly, we are guarantors for our fellow Jews. Each of us has a responsibility to help each other to make the correct choices and to perform the Mitzvos to the best of their ability.
Rabbi Shaps and the JET Team