To Turn the Many to Righteousness

Rabbi Joseph Hurwitz of Navaradok

Excerpts from “The Stature of Man.”Just as when one recognizes a shortcoming within himself, he is impelled. According to the extent of his recognition to seek a means towards its correction, and undertakes all manner of exertion towards the desired end, pursuing it unremittingly, so – and how much more so – when one becomes aware of as grievous a failing within society as its present educational structure, which has taken such a tremendous toll of our youth – how much more so must he summon up all of his powers to guard the breach, remove the impediment, and raise up the standard of truth. This is especially true in our days.

 

When the survival of Torah and the fear of G-d are at stake, it is incumbent upon us to do all in our power to create outposts of Torah.
It is precisely so, that each loyal Jew should feel at this time, when the survival of Torah and the fear of G-d are at stake. It is incumbent upon us to do all in our power to create outposts of Torah, to be outspoken in its cause, and, for its sake, to harden our faces like flint. Everyone is obliged to do whatever he can do, even such acts as lack outward glitter. One must pay no heed to his honor, but when something must be done, he must do it, disregarding everything but the act itself. And if he sees that his personal attention to the matter will result in a greater gain, he must not rely on others in order to excuse himself and he must not belittle the importance of the act in question, but he must feel it his responsibility to attend to every detail and not to allow anything imperfect to issue from him.For, in general, it is given to students to influence others who, without them, would be entirely lost, it being impossible for the great Torah scholars, by themselves, to insure a uniform concentration of quality and quantity throughout the world.And let one not say: “I shall wait until I have acquired the understanding given by forty years of age, or until I shall have passed most of my life without sinning, after which time I shall devote my life to community service” – for so saying he will not only fail to embark upon this service, but he will even sacrifice the fruits of his own youthful spiritual labors.

Accordingly, everyone must feel it his responsibility to come to the aid of anyone who to his knowledge, finds himself in spiritual danger; for if he, who is aware of the other’s plight is not moved to come to his assistance, then who will be?

One must therefore feel himself obliged to act even in such times when great Torah scholars are to be found, for it is not within their power to encompass the whole world.

This is an obligation from which no one can plead exemption; for every one can further the cause of Torah in his own way – whether by giving classes, or forming study groups, or attracting others and drawing them closer, or attending to material requirements, or journeying to gather together the youth of the surrounding areas, or providing lodging for them and looking after their personal needs, or directing a Talmud Torah, and the like.

We are perforce led to conclude that when Torah and fear of G-d are threatened with extinction, so that the very physical and spiritual existence of Israel are at stake (G-d forbid), there is no claim that can be granted precedence, and no one, regardless of his station, who can allow himself to be solicitous of his honor and repose. The position of the Great Sanhedrin, in this instance, was analogous to that of the captain of a ship with seventy thousand passengers on board who do not realize that it is forbidden to bore holes in the sides of the vessel. If the captain, in such a contingency, pays no heed, but remains in his cabin, preoccupied with the navigation of the boat, is there any sin greater than his? Of what avail are all his labors when the boat and all its passengers are in danger of going lost? And — much more so — when the danger stalking the ship stalks him, and the fate awaiting the passengers awaits him.

Can we not see that it is only upon him, who is cognizant of the danger, that there devolves the responsibility of bestirring himself from corner to corner and from cabin to cabin, to issue a stern warning against the boring of holes, or against any act whatsoever which might result in the slightest damage to the sides of the vessel. And he must not wait until the question of the permissibility of boring holes is addressed to him; for though all of the passengers may entertain this question with the exception of one, that one can endanger the entire ship. In such a situation, then, he cannot evade his responsibility, but he must spare no efforts whatsoever to deliver all the necessary instructions and warnings – and if he does not do so, the lives of all his seventy thousand passengers are on his head.

Precisely in this manner – our sages of blessed memory tell us – the Great Sanhedrin should have felt responsible for the survival of the entire Jewish nation. In such an emergency, no one, no matter who he may be, may find sanctuary in himself, for he too is in danger. Where there is no world, there are no individuals; “where there are no kids, there are no goats.” It is, therefore, precisely the Great Sanhedrin who our sages of blessed memory saw as duty-bound to put forth this exertion. And it is precisely because they had converted their nights to days in pursuance of Torah and fear of G-d that they bore an even greater obligation to teach the Children of Israel Torah and proper conduct.

We thus see the power of self-commitment to be so great as to enable an individual with rightness of intent, genuineness of deed, and strength of spirit to be, as it were, like a locomotive which pulls many cars after it. In like manner, he, by whole-hearted “pulling,”. Can turn the whole world back whence they had strayed.

This applies to every individual who would serve in this way. If he consecrates himself and his family to the cause of truth, he, too, though he is only one individual, can affect the entire world. For though there are many who court the truth and who are inclined to the fulfillment of Torah and the attainment of perfection, they are without anyone who would direct them to the pure, unadulterated truth, and who would serve them as an example to follow.

We must understand, then, that it is precisely this which the Holy one Blessed be He revealed to him: that there is a specified measure of Divine assistance which is granted those who wish to band together for the service of G-d and which is at the disposal of him who assumes responsibility for all of the assemblies of the wise, the seekers of truth. And it is his not because of himself or his own merits, but because of the very fact that he bears responsibility. Therefore, when responsibility rested with Moses alone, he received the full measure of this Divine assistance, but when he requested assistants, the Holy One Blessed be He informed him that they perforce would share in the Divine bounty, for they, too, would be shouldering responsibility. And this is the intent of: “And I will keep back some of the spirit. . .”

 

Experience teaches us that a community which seeks perfection is the beneficiary of continuing miracles.
The outcome of all this is that the very consideration which leads one to seek the lightening of his burden, ultimately results in a diminution of his strength, and that, conversely. One’s assuming responsibility is the very cause of the lightening of his burden; for in this instance, giving implies receiving. The community servant must, therefore, remain upon his watch, and not divest himself of the yoke of responsibility, for in remaining steadfast, he will attain to all of the Divine assistance – material and spiritual, physical and intellectual – which is granted the community to rescue them from every mischance. And let him not say: “I will not be able to bear alone.” for he should realize that all he has borne until now he has not borne with his strength, but with the help of G-d. Therefore, if he seeks to give up some of his responsibility, his loss is two-fold – first the orientation and self-commitment required for its original assumption, and, second, the Divine assistance provided him to bear the community burden.Experience teaches us that a community which seeks perfection is the beneficiary of continuing miracles, and that nowhere is Divine providence more in evidence. How often in the past have we been witness to contingencies of the most crucial urgency, which appeared so unamendable to resolution as to seem to seal off all avenues of escape, both physical and spiritual – and which, in the end, manifestly proved themselves to have been the very wellspring of salvation, to have opened the door to hope – a veritable creatio ex nihilo! The community servant who shoulders his responsibility, who bears up under every contingency, and remains at his watch with unswerving faith, will ultimately realize the Divine salvation. He has it within him to bear the burden of a great community, even in the most difficult of times. And he, who shirks responsibility, thinking to lighten his load thereby, will always remain on the outskirts of involvement, entirely incapable of community service.Only he who bears his burden – though it may be bitter at first – will be privileged to savor the sweetness of a community in quest of perfection and blessed with Divine assistance in all places and at all times.

Excerpt courtesy of Feldheim Publishers.

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