Sunday, January 17, 2016

Parshat Shelach, 7th portion, (Numbers 15:27-41), 7/2/2016

This portion starts with those individuals who sin inadvertently (by worshipping idols) and soon moves to those individuals who act highhandedly (intentionally).

One could say that not following commandments could either be by the community or by the individual. And they could be either intentional (highhanded in this parshat) or inadvertent.

When wrong is done, we can define the action in one of the four quadrants: 

We use such excuses as “I dropped the ball” to indicate that it was inadvertent. Or “everyone is doing it.”

We only take responsibility when it is individual and highhanded. And that is rare, from out own vantage point.

Actually we are all responsible. We don’t have to go along with the crowd. The crowd gossips. Do we need to gossip? The crowd doesn’t give first to God. Do we need to follow their action?

But what about mistakes? They fall in a continuum from completely unavoidable to avoidable. A brain surgeon goes drinking the night before a surgery and isn’t at his best. That is unavoidable. It is hard to think of a mistake that was not avoidable. If it was an act of God, like my house was taken by a tornado, and therefore I lost your papers… well, assuming that the tornado wasn’t expected, and you didn’t live in tornado country… that was a hard one to avoid. You can only be so careful. Car manufactures try to make their cars safe, yet they know that to make it even safer will cost too much and people will not buy the car. So they say, “what we’ve done so far will save X lives, and if we do more will save X + Y lives. But we can’t afford to do more, so some people will have to die that we could have saved. Sorry.”

What is the community’s responsibility when an individual does wrong? Did they adequately instruct the individual? Did they meet the individual on equal ground? Did they pick the wrong individual for the job?

If we pick the wrong candidate for president, and they screw up… are they solely responsible?

If our neighbor kids goes postal, are we responsible?

Many claim that they’ve washed their hands.

One might say that in a community you cannot do that.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said in The Prophets,  “Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”

1 comment:

  1. People have argued with me for feeling corporate responsibility to have some kind of "racial quotas" even tho not individually guilty for past slavery.


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