This Shabbos we read Parshas Nitzavim and Vayailach. This is also the last Parsha of the year, as we prepare for the New Year to start on Rosh Hashana next Wednesday night. As we look for special merits to begin the New year with, and as we search for meaning in these most trying times, one special thought jumps at us in the Parsha. The Torah tells us that “hidden sins are dealt with by Hashem alone, but the revealed sins are the responsibility of us and our children”. (Deuteronomy 29:28) The famed Chofetz Chaim explained that this is the source for the concept of Arvus – of responsibility that we all carry for each other. Every Jew is responsible to see to it that other Jews are doing what they are supposed to. In Jewish law, this carries special significance. For example, let’s say I recited Kiddush Friday night, and already fulfilled my obligation. I then chance upon a friend who has not yet said the Kiddush and wants to hear it from someone. Although I may not say the blessing over in vain, and I have no personal obligation to repeat the Kiddush, since I am saying the Kiddush to help another Jew fulfill their obligation, I may repeat it.
In fact, every day after the Shema we mention in the prayers that the responsibility to serve Hashem was put upon us and our forefathers, and upon all Jews anywhere. The Chofetz Chaim explains this to mean that we all share this obligation to ensure that we all do the right thing.
Imagine for a moment, adds the Chofetz Chaim, that you signed as a guarantor on a loan for someone, and you saw the borrower playing around recklessly with the money that he had borrowed. Would you keep quite? Would you let him just waste his money that you will become obligated to pay back? Certainly we would speak up, to try to make sure that we ourselves are not hurt by the foolish actions of the borrower. This is exactly our responsibility to each other. While we may not always be able to change what others do, the feelings of care and concern must be in our hearts and be acted upon. We may not feel indifferent to others. If we can think of others and try to feel our responsibility to them, this can be a very special way to start our New Year.