| Parshah |

Rising to Responsibility

Each one of us must accept upon ourselves our achrayus to be there for Klal Yisrael


And you should raise your stick and stretch out your hand over the sea and split it, and Bnei Yisrael will come in the middle of the sea on dry land.” (Shemos 14:16)


Why did Shevet Yehudah merit kingship? Because when Bnei Yisrael left Mitzrayim and stood by the sea, they didn’t want to descend into the waters. Shevet Yehudah leapt and descended first (Tosefta, Berachos 4b).
This trait was manifest in Yehudah himself, as we see when he saved Yosef from death, when he admitted his involvement with Tamar, and when he took responsibility for the safety of Binyamin.  This is the middah of achrayus, of responsibility. It’s this attribute that made Shevet Yehudah fit to be the perpetual kings of Yisrael. (Rabbi Shlomo Caplan, Mishulchan Shlomo)

Life bumps along with its twists and turns, and the older I get, the more I realize how inexperienced I am. Where once I would’ve have jumped into a difficult situation, confident I knew exactly how to handle it, years of hard-gained wisdom have showed me it always pays to get guidance.

Recently I was faced with a thorny issue that had me stumped. There were a lot of factors, a lot of uncertainties, and people who’d be affected by my actions. Sure, I could decide on my own what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t sure if that was the right thing to do. I discussed it with my husband, and we realized this was a question for daas Torah; specifically, we wanted the advice of Rav Yisrael Ganz shlita.

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz observes that it was Esther, not Mordechai, who ordered the Jews to fast for three days on Pesach. Since Esther demonstrated exceptional achrayus for Klal Yisrael, she rose above Mordechai and all the gedolai hador, and they all accepted her psak halachah. The hallmark of greatness and leadership is a sense of achrayus.

The problem was a timely one. I needed an answer within 24 hours. No problem. I knew Rav Ganz usually had afternoon hours where he received visitors. However, when calling the house, I got a recorded message that Rav Ganz wasn’t receiving visitors that day.

Now what? I needed an answer and I needed it then.

I called the house again, and lo and behold the Rebbetzin answered. Despite being uncomfortable imposing, I explained my dilemma.

“Come right over,” she said. “The Rav will see you.”

The great Torah giants tore themselves away from their constant devotion to Torah study to tend to the needs of Klal Yisrael. It was their sense of achrayus that forced them to step out of the beis medrash and enter the public arena to advocate for Klal Yisrael.
Rav Avraham Pam ztz”l was a wonderful example of this attribute. As the rosh yeshivah of Torah Vodaath, he had no desire and didn’t see himself suited to join the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah. But Klal Yisrael needed him, so he stepped forward. When the floodgates of Russian immigration to Eretz Yisrael opened, again he stepped forward and founded Shuvu, providing Torah chinuch for tens of thousands of children.
But achrayus is not only for kings and Torah leaders. The sense of achrayus for the Klal depends on the level of achrayus we take for ourselves. Each one of us must accept upon ourselves our achrayus to be there for Klal Yisrael.

I jumped into my car and raced to Mattersdorf. I found the Rav learning over tea in his dining room. I began explaining my dilemma, and then, to my horror, I found myself crying. The more I spoke, the harder I began to sob. I was humiliated, but at the same time, I realized how deeply this issue was affecting me and how crucial its resolution would be.

While I fumbled for a tissue, the Rebbetzin rushed in from the kitchen and handed me a box. Asking my permission, she sat down next to me and held my hand as I continued explaining.

The Rav was quiet for a moment, and then said he’d need to make a phone call to verify his psak. The Rebbetzin quickly wrote down my number and assured me they’d get back to me that day.

Sure enough, later that evening I received a phone call with an answer that reassured with its clarity.

But even more reassuring was the clear sense of responsibility and compassion both the Rav and Rebbetzin displayed, going out of their comfort zone to help a Yid who needed them.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 776)

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