Responsibility to the Other

ת”ר מפרנסים עניי נכרים עם עניי ישראל ומבקרין חולי נכרים עם חולי ישראל וקוברין מתי נכרים עם מתי ישראל מפני דרכי שלום

“The rabbis taught: We sustain the non-Jewish poor along with the Jewish poor and visit the non-Jewish sick along with the Jewish sick, and bury the non-Jewish dead along with the Jewish dead for the sake of peace.”

-Talmud, Tractate Gitten 61a

A general Jewish principle teaches Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh. All Jews are responsible for one another. While this is true, Chocolate Moses believes that we are also responsible for people other than Jews. We want to push the limits between Jewish particularity and our universal mandate to heal our broken world. As French-Jewish philosopher Emmanel Levinas said, “All who cleave to the divine law, all men worthy of the name, are responsible for each other.”

The Rabbis of the Talmud taught: “Whoever has the capacity to protest to prevent his household from committing a crime and does not do so is accountable for the sins of his household. If he could do so for his fellow citizens, he is accountable for the crimes of his fellow citizens. If the whole world, he is accountable for the whole world.

Elsewhere in the Talmud, Rav Papa said, “The Princes of the world have to answer to all charges.” Because we have the capacity, it is not enough for us to be only responsible for ourselves and for other Jews. We have to know that we fall when our brothers and sisters fall and that this is the real meaning of, “And they shall fall one upon another.” We are all responsible for one another. Not only are we responsible for others, Levinas added that our humanity depends on being responsible for, and reaching out to, the other. We are not fully human until we reach out to others. The human soul does not retreat into itself. And among those for whom we are responsible, the Torah tells us on 36 occasions to care for the stranger and the most vulnerable among us.

Understanding and accepting our responsibility requires maturity, but unless we make this choice we are as incomplete as Adam was in the Garden of Eden when God asked him, “Ayekah?” “Where are you?” God didn’t ask for God’s sake, but for Adam’s, because Adam didn’t know where, or who, he was. We are the inheritors of the Covenant between God and Israel, and every day we are challenged to accept it consequences. Every day we are supposed to ask ourselves, “Where are we?” Where are we creating the world we want for ourselves and for those who will inherit it?