June 17, 2024
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June 17, 2024
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Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt”l, was renowned for his extraordinary drive and hasmada (diligence in learning), sterling character, warmth and self-sacrifice. A personable and approachable gadol b’Yisrael, Rav Nosson Tzvi worked tirelessly at the helm of of the Mir Yeshiva in Yerushalayim — dedicating his life to harbatzas haTorah, the advancement and spread of Torah study. Through his efforts, the yeshivah grew exponentially and became the largest center of Torah in the world.

Howard Schultz was the longtime chairman and chief global strategist of “Starbucks” coffee company. Upon receiving an honorary degree from Columbia Business School, he shared the following anecdote:

“I once went to Meah Shearim with a group of businessmen, where we were given an audience with Rabbi Finkel. What we did not know was that he had severe Parkinson’s disease. When his office door opened, we saw him sit at the head of the table, with his hands trembling. Naturally, our inclination was to look away and not embarrass him.

Rabbi Finkel asked, ‘Who can tell me what the lesson of the Holocaust is?’ We were all looking away, until we heard a heavy bang on the table: ‘Gentlemen, look at me, and look at me right now.’ His speech affliction was even worse than his physical one. ‘I have only a few minutes for you, because I know you’re all “busy American businessmen.” Who can tell me what the lesson of the Holocaust is?’

He called on one guy, who sheepishly offered, ‘We will never, ever forget …?’ The rabbi dismissed him. All of us were practically under the table, hoping not to be called on. He gestured at another guy, who had a fantastic answer: ‘We will never, ever again be a victim or bystander.’

‘You guys don’t get it,’ said the rabbi. ‘Okay, let me tell you… As you know, people were transported in the most inhumane way. On a corral with no light, no bathroom and in freezing cold, they arrived at the death camps. Upon disembarking, the men were separated from women, mothers from daughters, and fathers from sons. They were then marched off to their bunkers.’

‘As they entered the bunkers, only one in six was given a blanket. The person who received a blanket, as he laid down on the hard, cold bunk, he had to decide: “Am I going to spread part of the blanket over the five other people who did not get one, or am I going to pull it over myself to stave off freezing?”’

‘At this moment,’ concluded Rabbi Finkel, ‘we learned the power of the human spirit — we spread the blanket over the five others.’”

With that, he effortfully stood up — and with a whisper that was more powerful than a shout — the rosh yeshiva charged us with a mission: “Take your blanket! Take it back to America and spread it over five other people.”

Following the sale of Yosef, Yehudah was looking desperately for a redemption — a tikkun for not sacrificing himself to keep his brother safe. Years later — in our sedra — Yehudah returns to his father in Eretz Yisrael, steps up and pleads to be allowed to bring Binyamin down to Egypt. This time, Yehuda puts himself on the line to guarantee the wellbeing of his brother …

שִׁלְחָה הַנַּעַר אִתִּי

“Send the boy in my care … ”

אָנֹכִי אֶעֶרְבֶנּוּ מִיָּדִי תְּבַקְשֶׁנּוּ אִם־לֹא הֲבִיאֹתִיו אֵלֶיךָ וְהִצַּגְתִּיו לְפָנֶיךָ וְחָטָאתִי לְךָ כָּל־הַיָּמִים:

“I will be the guarantee for him; from my hand you can demand him. If I do not bring him to you and stand him up before you, I will have sinned against you forever.” (43:8-9)

כִּי עַבְדְּךָ עָרַב אֶת־הַנַּעַר מֵעִם אָבִי …

“For your servant has assumed responsibility for the boy from my father … ” (44:32)

Areivus — the mutual responsibility and interdependence of all Jews — expresses our identity as family and our obligation to one another. An areiv is a legal guarantor or co-signer for a loan; if one is unable to pay, the areiv is obligated to step in to cover the debt.

There are mitzvos such as kiddush and mikra Megillah, in which even when one has already fulfilled his personal obligation in it, he may make the brachos again in order to be motzei others. In other words, one is “obligated” to ensure that others have the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah as well. With this intent, halachic sources cite the Talmud (Shevuos 39a): “Kol Yisrael areivim zeh bazeh — All of Israel are guarantors for one another.” Until every Jew has fulfilled his obligation, none of us really has.

An act of areivus is not really an act of chesed, or even altruism. In fact, it transcends the notion of “giving to others.” A deeper manifestation of “v’ahavta l’reyacha kamocha,” such an act of mutual responsibility is made in “holy self-interest,” and in the interest of the klal, the collective term. Unless you have fulfilled your obligation and have what you need spiritually and materially, I am incomplete — and Klal Yisrael is incomplete.

May we be blessed to express the greatness of the Jewish people and the human spirit: areivus zeh bazeh. May we “cover” for one another, share our blessings, make sure each person is warm and celebrate our ultimate “completeness” soon, and in our days.

Rav Judah Mischel is executive director of Camp HASC, the Hebrew Academy for Special Children. He is the mashpiah of OU-NCSY, founder of Tzama Nafshi and the author of “Baderech: Along the Path of Teshuva.” Rav Judah lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh with his wife Ora and their family.

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