Among the many topics discussed in Parashat Re’eh is the law of the “Mesit,” one who tries to persuade his fellow Jews to abandon the faith and worship idols. The Torah foresees the situation where a person may apply pressure on his family members in an effort to drive them to foreign worship. Indeed, as we know, often the strongest source of negative religious pressure comes from family members. When a person decides to raise his standards of Torah observance, some family members and relatives might disapprove of his lifestyle changes and will try dissuading him from embarking on this road of spiritual growth.
The Torah treats this phenomenon quite severely, assigning the death penalty for those who attempt to convince others to worship idols. In formulating this law, the Torah explains why such an individual is dealt with so harshly: “For he attempted to lure you away from Hashem your God” (13:11). It is noteworthy that the individual is deemed worthy of capital punishment for the “attempt” – because he tried to lead others astray. Even if his efforts are unsuccessful, and the people he had spoken to remain steadfastly committed to Hashem and to Torah, the person is nevertheless guilty of a grave sin and eligible for capital punishment. The mere attempt to lead other Jews away from Torah is condemnable and a capital offense.
The Saba of Kelm (Rav Simha Zissel Ziv, 1824-1898) noted that if the Torah assigns such a harsh punishment for the mere attempt – successful or otherwise – to lure others to sin, then it certainly guarantees immense reward for those who attempt to bring others closer to Torah observance. Whether or not we are successful, there is great value in just making an effort, initiating any sort of sincere attempt, to lead our fellow Jews to higher religious standards. Certainly, if we are successful, and cause other Jews to draw closer to Torah, even slightly, then we cannot even imagine the reward we will receive. But regardless, our job is try, to make an attempt, to do whatever we can.
This is the Misva of our generation, when there is, unfortunately, widespread ignorance and neglect of Torah tradition. One does not have to be a trained Rabbi or outreach professional to perform this Misva. This is a Misva for each and every one of us, each person utilizing his particular strengths and circumstances toward this goal. Every small attempt is valuable. The results are up to God – but it is up to us to make the effort and do what we can to help the Jewish nation draw closer to the Almighty.