Parashat Nisavim- Outreach by Default
Moshe Rabbenu tells us in Parashat Nisavim (29:28), “Ha’nistarot L’Hashem Elokenu Ve’ha’niglot Lanu U’l’banenu Ad Olam” – “That which is hidden belongs to Hashem our God; but that which is revealed is for us and our children, forever.” This verse establishes the concept of collective responsibility toward Torah observance. We committed ourselves to the Torah together as a nation, and not just as individuals. And therefore, we have a responsibility to see to it, as best we can, that all other Jews observe the Misvot. It does not suffice to ensure that we and our families are devoted to the Torah. We must also be concerned that all our fellow Jews are likewise committed. This verse tells us that although we are not responsible for the “Nistarot,” for the sins we are not aware of, the “Niglot” – the spiritual ills and failings of which we are aware – are our responsibility to address.
The Hafetz Haim (Rav Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin, 1839-1933) explained this concept through an analogy to a borrower who borrowed a large sum of money and asked a friend to sign as his guarantor. Sometime later, the guarantor sees his friend, the borrower, walking into a casino with a wallet stuffed with money. The guarantor rushes up to him and reprimands him for going gambling.
“What’s it to you?” the friend angrily retorts. “It’s my money, so I can do what I want with it.”
“Oh no,” the guarantor replies. “This directly affects me. If you throw your money away, I’m the one who’s going to have to come up with a million dollars to repay your loan!”
Similarly, the Hafetz Haim explains, it is very much our business whether our fellow Jews observe the Torah, because we accepted collective responsibility toward it. We all jointly share the consequences of the nation’s collective success or, Heaven forbid, failure to observe the Misvot, and we must therefore do what we can to bring back those who have strayed from observance.
Of course, this responsibility gives rise to the question of how this can be done. People don’t like being told what to do. It’s clear and obvious to everyone that if we go up to non-observant Jews and angrily reprimand them for violating the Torah, this tactic will not succeed. If anything, it will breed resentment that will further distance these precious Jews from our heritage.
The solution is to affect people without saying a word, to show them the beauty of Misvot and the satisfaction they bring without talking about it. When we see, for example, a great Torah Sage poring over his Torah books with passion and excitement, we are inspired. And even the rest of us can inspire people by performing Misvot with fervor and enthusiasm. If people see us feeling happy and fulfilled for having chosen a Torah lifestyle, they might be open to the idea of trying it out. If we have non-observant guests for Shabbat meal and they see and feel the special joy of a family sitting together, sharing ideas and singing Pizmonim, this will have an effect. But if people see us performing Misvot begrudgingly, complaining about the responsibilities and rushing through them as fast as we can, they will remain distant from Torah life, and will in fact be happy that they do not embrace our lifestyle.
We do not have to – and we should not – go over to our fellow Jews and tell them directly they must be observe the Torah. But what we can and must do is reach out to them automatically , by default, exuding joy and fulfillment in our performance of Misvot, and making it clear that we view Torah life as a great privilege and source of unparalleled satisfaction.