We are Responsible for Our Brothers

We are going through a very long, difficult, and painful period, and the end is not in sight. We must feel the distress of every Jew! We hear the painful voices of those who say, “They are not our brothers. We must wake up and increase feelings of brotherhood with all our might. A MUST READ!

6 min

Rabbi Shalom Arush

Posted on 10.07.24

Translated from Rabbi Arush’s feature article in the weekly Chut shel Chessed newsletter. The articles focus on his main message: “Loving others as yourself” and emuna. 


The King of Israel is Shocked 

In the city of Shomron, the capital of the Kingdom of Israel during the First Temple Period, there was a severe shortage of food. The king of Aram had gathered his army together and had placed a siege on the city, blocking supplies. After a while, the food supplies were exhausted and people began to trade every imaginable thing for food, to the point that they engaged in cannibalism (!). 


A local woman made an agreement with her friend to eat their children in the following order: One day they would eat the son of the first woman, and the next day they would eat the son of the second woman. The first woman kept the agreement and handed over her son, and both ate. But the next day, when she demanded that her friend fulfill her part in the agreement and hand over her son, she found out that the second woman was not keeping the agreement, and that she had hidden her own son. The King of Israel was walking on the walls of the city where everyone could see him, and the woman who has been tricked cried out to him and demanded justice. 


When the king heard this unbearable story, he was deeply shocked, and proceeded to do two things: First, he rent his garments, and then everyone could see that underneath the fine royal garments the king was wearing a sackcloth! Secondly, he announced that he wanted to take out his anger on the prophet Elisha, who wasn’t doing anything to save the people from hunger.  


There are two huge lessons here: 

First, we are talking about a king who, in terms of mitzvah observance, was extremely wicked; but as a responsible leader of the Jewish kingdom, he didn’t allow himself to be distracted even for a moment from the difficult situation. He would not lower the morale of the people, and therefore when he went out to them, he wore his royal garments; but underneath those clothes he wore a sackcloth, which is extremely uncomfortable. Thus, he felt the distress of his kingdom every single minute.

Secondly, he blamed the spiritual and Torah leaders and wished to take revenge on them. That was a lie and a mistake, because what brought about the situation was really the spiritual failure, for which the kings of Israel were responsible. But still, there was an understanding among the people and an expectation that the spiritual leaders and Torah scholars were supposed to take responsibility.  


Not Willing to Get Used to it 

Now, let us bring the two messages for our life and era.


We are going through a very long, difficult, and painful period, and the end is not yet in sight. The situation is very difficult both inside and outside. Our brethren are giving up their lives and have been fighting for many months. Hundreds have already lost their lives; thousands have suffered physical and emotional trauma. Bereft parents, orphans, and widows. Long and difficult rehabilitation processes. Parents of soldiers cannot sleep and cannot rest and are afraid of every knock at the door. Tens of thousands are in exile in their own land, and a significant percentage of them have lost their homes, their jobs, and the businesses they spent years building. Destruction of lives. Homes falling apart and children who are without a framework. Our kidnapped brothers and sisters and their families. 


This situation compels us to act! We must not allow ourselves to be distracted from our brothers’ situation! We must not get used to this state of war! We are forbidden to become accustomed to bad tidings! We must not fall asleep! We must get up and call out to Hashem! As strongly as we can! 


Recently, on one of the hot days, I left my house and felt the heaviness of the heat. My first thought was: If we, here in Jerusalem, feel the heat, what do the soldiers feel in Gaza, with all their heavy equipment, in stuffy troop-carriers, in clouds of dust and smoke?! [Editor’s Note: Jerusalem is inland, so the heat is dry (30-40% humidity). In contrast, Gaza is next to the Mediterranean, so the humidity is double, which makes the oppressive heat even harder to bear.] 


When your child doesn’t take his sandwich to school, you are concerned and cannot calm down until you make sure he or she has some substitute for the sandwich. Multiply that by tens of thousands and think of the parents of the soldiers, who have no day and no night. 


If you feel that all Jews are your brothers, how can you sit in peace?! And even if you pray here and there, in a lackadaisical way, that’s not called awakening; that’s called being indifferent; insensitive; even cruel. How would you feel if the life work of your brother was going up in flames? 


We are All Fighting for Life 

Even if you are sitting peacefully in your home, you are obligated first of all to feel the distress of other Jews, and to pray more and more for them. Moreover, do you think that you’re not in danger?! What are you waiting for – that the opposite of the good will reach your vicinity?! Are you waiting for the sword to be placed on your neck?! 


The state of the Jewish people – that is your state as well. We are all one body. We are all in danger. We are all responsible. We are all partners. 


It is imperative to bring this down to deeds and decisions here and now. Every Jew must devote at least half an hour a day to crying out about the Jewish People. If you know how to perform hitbodedut and speak to Hashem in your own words – so good; and if you don’t yet know, say Tehillim and prayers with all your might, with your whole heart.  


Don’t show up for that half hour of prayer half asleep, tired. Don’t show up feeling weak. Rather, before that half-hour, revitalize yourself, think of all the things we have mentioned here, all the things that you know and hear about, and then start shouting with all your might, like someone who is fighting for his life. And it’s not only “like someone fighting for his life” – rather, you really are fighting for your own life! 


You don’t have time? Those reservists who have been called up left everything behind – wife, children, work – and they are willing to give up their lives and their children’s future for the good of all of us, so does anyone have the audacity to say that he cannot give the smallest amount of his time and effort? If we had even a little bit of integrity, we wouldn’t be able to sleep peacefully at home, and we would be spending our time, around the clock, learning, praying, doing kiruv (bringing Jews closer to Hashem), and encouraging our soldiers. 


Listening to Messages 

In my humble opinion, there is room for accusations against the talmidei chachamim and the yeshivas. A believing Jew attributes everything to Hashem yitbarach. What those accusers want is of no interest; what is of interest is what Hashem wants from us! And Hashem wants us to call out! 


We hear the painful voices of those who say, “They are not our brothers.” And, although that is a lie and is very offensive, in the inner approach of emuna, we have to accept it as a message from Heaven and use it to wake up and increase feelings of brotherhood with all our might; brotherhood means to feel the pain of each and every one of our brothers and sisters.  


I have no doubt that if we would have called out with all our might – this accusation would not have been made; I have no doubt that if we had felt our areivut (mutual responsibility) in all 248 of our limbs, this accusation would not have been made. 


The Torah tells us of war with Midian, in which one thousand prime soldiers came from each tribe. Chazal say that there were also one thousand Jews who were sent to pray. They all felt responsible – like one person, like one heart, as the Ba’al Haturim says on the passuk “So there were delivered from the thousands of Yisrael” (Bamidbar 31:5) – “They gave themselves up for the sake of Hashem’s holiness to save Yisrael.” 


What arises from this is a call to all Jews, with no exceptions, to pray for the Jewish People with mesirut nefesh (utter devotion). We must feel the distress of Yisrael and call out to Hashem and dedicate every spiritual act of ours to the good of our brethren. 


And Hashem will have mercy on us and on all our brothers and sisters, all Beit Yisrael who are given over to trouble or captivity​, whether they abide on the sea or on the dry land. 

May the All-prese​nt have mercy upon them, and bring them forth from trouble to enlargement, from darkness to light, and from subjection​ to redemption​, now speedily and at a near time, and we will say Amen. 


Tell us what you think!

Thank you for your comment!

It will be published after approval by the Editor.

Add a Comment