The book of Vayikra concludes with a description of the the covenant between am Yisrael and Hashem The covenant involves the blessings that am Yisrael receive when they follow the paths of the Torah and the curses that befall them if they fail to go on those ways. Whilst the blessings are dealt with briefly, the 49 curses are listed in chilling detail.
Amongst the curses is – ” They will stumble, each man over his brother, as if (chased) by the sword even when there is no pursuer; …” [chapter 26, verse 37]. The straight forward meaning of the verse is as Rashi explains, “when they desire to escape they will fall over one another because they will run in confusion.”
The Talmud in masechet Shevuot 39a though, expounds the verse as follows – “And a man will stumble because of his brother’s iniquity. This teaches “shekol yisrael areivim zeh bazeh” – that all Jews are guarantors for one another”. The Talmud explains that the case when others are punished for an individual’s sins refers to a case where the people could have protested and maybe prevented the person from sinning but did not protest.
The above passage of gemarah expresses the ‘negative’ formulation of the concept of Jewish responsibility – “arvut”.In the Talmud massechet Rosh Hashana 29a we find (according to Ritva and others) the ‘positive’ formulation of the concept of “arvut”. There the gem’ states that one who has already fulfilled his obligation can nevertheless cause others, who have yet to discharge their obligation, to fulfill the mitzvah. For example, one who has already fulfilled the mitzvah of kiddush on Shabbat, can repeat the kiddush on behalf of someone else who has not yet recited it, and the repetition is not considered as having mentioned Hashem’s name unnecessarily. This halacha is based on the above concept that every Jew is a “guarantor” for his fellow Jew’s observance.
In the Tomer Dvorah,(written by Rav Moshe Cordevero, disciple of the Ari) we derive a new explanation of the word “arvut”, which raises us to a loftier perspective of that concept.
The Talmud in massechet Berachot 47b states – That the first 10 people to gather in shull thus creating a minyan, receive a reward equivalent to a 100 people who subsequently would join that minyan. The simple explanation of this statement is that those who were first to establish the minyan receive the equivalent reward of all those who subsequently join the minyan and 100 is merely an example. Should 80 persons subsequently join the minyan, the first ten would receive the equivalent of 80 persons reward (for making a minyan).
The Tomer Devorah interprets this gemara differently. He explains that the first ten making the minyan always receive the reward equivalent to 100, whether there are 80 or 100 persons who join the minyan afterwards; the reason being that each one of the first 10 are intermingled, the one with the other ! (10x 10 =100). He thus interprets the word “arvut” to mean intermingling. The gemara means to say, that when 10 Jews meet at a specific time in order to pray together , their souls intermingle one with the other creating a ‘minyan’, i.e. a mini-community.
The Yaarot Devash once defined this intermingling as follows – when one Jew walks around with a beard and his friend without a beard, the former in reality is sporting only “half a beard “. To return to the gemara in massechet Shevuot 39a; – when a Jew sins and another did not attempt to prevent him from sinning, the “innocent” Jew is affected “and stumbles” as a result of his soul being connected to that of the “guilty” one.
If all this is true of the ‘negative’, how much more so of the ‘positive’. Regarding the blessings we find – “Five from among you will pursue a hundred and a hundred from among you will pursue ten thousand…” (Vayikra ,chapter 26,verse 8). The Torat Kohanim points to the fact that 5 to a 100, is not proportional as 100 to 10,000. Indeed so, answers the Torat Kohanim, “You cannot compare a few who perform the Torah to many who perform the Torah.”, and all this is due to this secret of our souls intermingling.(Tomer Devorah.)
On the eve of Yom Yerushalayim, it is appropriate to recall, that Yerushalayim has the power to evoke this awareness of the essential unity and intermingling of Am Yisrael’s soul. In the words of our Psalmist , King David “- Jerusalem built up is like a city joined together.” (Psalms 122; 3) and our Sages commented ((J’ T Chagigah 3;5), “It is a city that joins/ makes all of Israel into friends and colleagues.”