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Sunday, 17 August 2014

Weil Rome Burned


Moed Katan 5

My friend Bentzy was learning in yeshiva in Israel for a number of years and continued into kollel after he was married.  After a year learning in kollel, he spoke to his Rosh Yeshiva (chancellor) and told him that he was ready to go out and serve Klal Yisrael (our people).   As a teenager, he had been inspired by (youth group) NCSY and he in turn wanted to become an NCSY director to inspire other kids.

The Rosh Yeshiva was adamant, “The best thing you can do for Klal Yisrael is stay here and continue to learn Torah!”

The Mishnah states:  During Chol Hamoed (the intermediate days of the festival), we may repair public water cisterns and clean them out.  And we may repair the highways, roads and mikvahs.  Indeed, we may take care of all public needs.

The Beraisa teaches further: We go out to clear the roads of thorns and to repair the streets and marketplaces and to test the temperature of the mikvahs.  
How do we know that if the community leaders did not go out to take care of these matters that any blood that is spilled there (on account of failing to repair the public infrastructure) is considered by the Torah to be on their hands?  The Gemara answers: Concerning a Beth Din (court) that shirks its responsibility to try capital cases, the verse states “the blood shall be upon you.”

Tragically, today we are bearing witness to the most catastrophic disappearance of the Jewish people since the exile of the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel thousands of years ago.  Rabbi Steven Weil compares the attitude of many in the Orthodox community today to Emperor Nero, who played the violin “while Roman burned.” 

If, for physical danger, our Sages insisted that we “go out” even during the festival to repair the sidewalks, how much more so must we be prepared to “go out” and combat spiritual danger throughout the year!  Our brothers and sisters are stumbling on the broken pavements of life – what are we doing?

In the days of the Talmud, the Beth Din (court) could suffice with sending public servants to take care of the public needs.  But there are certain times when we need all hands on deck.  When the ship is sinking, we need everyone to do their part!


What are you doing for Klal Yisrael?  Are you going out of your comfort zone to save our people?  We all know someone who needs our help.  Failure to assist is akin to spilling their blood, says the Talmud!  You can and must do everything you can to help your brothers and sisters.  You can repair the cisterns of Torah!