This weeks Parsha is Parshas Netzavim. In this Parsha we read a strong statement from the Torah regarding our responsibility for others: ďThe hidden sins are Hashemís, (to respond to) while the revealed ones are for us and our children forever to perform all the words of the TorahĒ (Deuteronomy 29:28). Rashi explains that the Torah is telling us that while we are not responsible for the hidden sins that another Jew does, and we donít know about, we are responsible for the open, revealed ones. If we donít take action to change them, we will be held responsible for the sins of others.
The Chofetz Chaim explains that from here we see that when the Jews accepted the Torah, it wasnít just for each person to do it for themselves. Every Jew accepted to whatever he can to strengthen Torah observance by all other Jews. We thus became guarantors for each other in our observance of the Torah. This actually has ramifications in every day Jewish life. If a person wants to do a mitzvah on behalf of another Jew, to help him fulfill his obligation, he can do so. For example, there is an obligation on Rosh Hashana to blow and to listen to the shofar. While one canít listen to the shofar for another person, for that must be done by the individual fulfilling their obligation, he can blow the shofar for them. What if a Jew named Michael had already done the mitzvah? Can Michael he still blow the shofar for his friend Steve who hasnít yet heard the shofar? Jewish law says Michael can, based on this principle of Michael being a guarantor responsible for the other person doing the mitzvah. Even though Michael need not do the mitzvah for himself anymore, he must do it for Steve.
What if Michael had become a guarantor on a $50,000 loan that Steve took? If Michael sees Steve using the money in foolish ways, wasting it, or investing it poorly, will he just remain quiet? Certainly not!! His own personal money will be held accountable for Stevenís mistakes! It is the same, the Chofetz Chaim explains, with our responsibility to the observance of mitzvohs by every Jew. We are held accountable for the sins of others, or their failure to do a mitzvah, whenever we could have changed that.
As we prepare the final days for Rosh Hashana, we certainly think of how we will start the new year with a new level of commitment to Torah and mitzvohs in our own life. However, this is simply not enough. We also must think of what we can do to affect others, to help encourage and empower them to raise their level of observance in Torah and Mitzvohs.