Every Jew is personally obligated

An excerpt from the Chofetz Chaim’s Chomas Hadas, translated by Shmuel Elchonon Brog.

“These shall stand to bless the people on Mount Greezem… and these shall stand for the sake of the curse on Mount Aval… Cursed be he that exalts not the words of the Torah to do them; and all the people shall answer Amen.”1

Our sages tell us that all the curses were said first as blessings. Thus, they first said, “Blessed is the one who exalts the words of this Torah,” to which all twelve tribes responded with “Amen.”

This passage implies two duties. First, as our sages state clearly in several places, every Jew is personally obligated to do everything in his power to support the Torah. Further, this passage also implies that the Law of Torah must be esteemed generally.

This latter obligation is the responsibility of Beis din because it has the power of enforcement, as it stated in the Talmud Yerushalmi Sotah: “‘Cursed be he that exalts not…’ Is the Torah then fallen [that it must be exalted and elevated]? Rabbi Shimon ben Chalafta says, this refers to the earthly Beis Din. Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Huna say in the name of Samuel, because of this passage Yosheyahu rent his garments and said, ‘it is my duty to exalt it!'”2

The Rambam, in his Commentary of the Torah {Dvorim, 28:26}, explains: “the palace and the governors {the Beis Din} are necessary for this elevation because it is in their power to have the Torah sustained by those who seek to destroy it. Even if one is personally a perfectly righteous man, nevertheless, if he can sustain the Torah in the hands of the wicked that disregard it {and he does not}, he is called cursed.

Actually, the only reason Beis Din is specified is because the average Beis Din in those times had the power to prevent those that sought to destroy the Torah. The same rule applies, however to any Jew is respected in his community and who has the power to strengthen Torah observance. This obligation is his, as our sages say, “Whoever can prevent his townsmen from sin and does not is punished for the sin of his townsmen.” However, if he directs them to righteousness and the Torah is strengthened through him he receives the blessing uttered at Mount Greezem.

Our sages tell us (Sotah 37) that six tribes ascended to the top of Mount Greezem and six ascended to the top of Mount Aval while the Kohanim, the Levites, and the Ark stayed in the valley between. The Levites turned their faces towards Mount Greezem, and they began with the blessing, “Blessed be the man that maketh not a graven or a molten image…,” and all the people answered Amen. They then turned around and faced Mount Aval and began with the curses, saying, “Cursed be he that exalts not….” How awesome this sight is of both the blessings and their counterparts issuing from the mouths of six hundred thousand Jew, including the Kohanim, the Levites, and the Ark of God’s Covenant!

It thus follows that whoever elevates the Law of Torah with whatever means in his power is blessed by the Kohanim, the Levites, and six hundred thousands Jew with the acknowledgement of the Master of the Universe, for the Ark of God was with them. Can there be a greater blessing than this!

To my mind this is the explanation of, “and for those who give warning it will be pleasant and there will come to them a goodly blessing.”3 This means, whoever rebukes his neighbor altruistically (l’shem shomayim) and directs him to the path of righteousness described in God’s Torah will, because of this, enjoy the pleasantness of God and receive the “goodly” blessing discussed above.

From all of these passages it is obvious that the reverse God forbid, will befall the one who has the ability to sustain the Torah but is lax in so doing. Indeed, a curse is stated in reference to this which is invoked against him by the twelve tribes, etc., as explained above. Everyone is also familiar with the comment of our sages which states, “There is {besides} a curse on him, an imprecation on him, a ban on him….” More-ever, there is a decrease in Divine Influence on the world at large when there is laxity in elevating Torah because this was the command which sealed the Covenant at Arvos Moav.

Elevating the Law of Torah depends upon the Divine favors with which each individual was blessed, as our sages say on the passage, “Honor the Lord m’honcho {with your wealth}”4: “Do not read m’honcho butm’choncho {with whatever you were favored}.” Some were favored with great wealth and have the ability to open advanced or elementary yeshivas. There can be no greater elevation of Torah than this, as we shall explain, God willing, later. Others were favored with an ability to speak and they can address the multitudes about this and other matters that concern the very essence of Torah observance. All of these kinds of activities, together with preventing whatsoever may lead to a weakening of Torah is called exalting Torah.

To be actively engaged in any such matter is be amongst the blessed.

 


1) Dvorim 27:12-26.
2) Kings II 23:3.
3) Mishlay 24:25 (Our text explains the word “goodly” which is apparently unnecessary since all blessings, by definition, are good.)
4) Mishlay 3:9.

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