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השב תשיבם לאחיך

You shall surely return them to you brother. (22:1)

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Horav Shmuel Hominer, zl (Eved HaMelech), writes that included in the mitzvah of Hasheiv teshiveim, the obligation to return a lost article to its rightful owner, likewise applies with regard to the spiritual sphere. One Jew is responsible for the other. Therefore, if my brother is plagued with a spiritual shortcoming, my attitude should not be: “How does this involve me? He is responsible for his life. I am responsible for mine.” It does not work that way. We are responsible for one another. One should not ignore his fellow’s plight by turning a blind eye to his spiritual failings. He obviously requires assistance. Someone should be there for him. Interestingly, the word the Torah uses for returning a lost object is hasheiv/teshiveim. Another word would be chazarah. Hasheiv is related to teshuvah, repentance, implying that the obligation to return a soul is total: one must do everything possible to motivate the soul to return to its Source, to perform teshuvah, repent to Hashem.

Horav Yehonasan Eibeshutz, zl (Yaaros Devash) writes: Hashem destroyed the Bais Hamikdash (Second Temple) as the result of the sin of sinaas chinam, unwarranted hatred, between Jews. The sin has obviously not been ameliorated; otherwise, we would once again have the Bais Hamikdash. All this, despite the extraordinary measure of gemillas chesed, outpouring of lovingkindness, that is carried out by so many members of the Jewish community. Clearly, a deep-rooted love for our fellow Jew motivates these acts of lovingkindness. If so, why do we not have the Bais Hamikdash? Rav Yehonasan distinguishes between physical relationships in which we demonstrate care of our fellow – his physical essence and being – and the care that we should manifest toward his spiritual well-being – in which we are sorely deficient.

The examples we have presented of spiritual paucities are an indication of the high level of spiritual demeanor and practice that existed then. For instance, Shabbos and kashrus seem to be no-brainers. People observed Shabbos and maintained a kosher home. The author’s idea of a deficiency is talking during the recital of Kaddish. The observer takes note but does nothing about it, claiming, “Why should I be the one to rebuke him?” This, posits Rav Yehonasan, is an example of unwarranted hatred.

Another excuse for not following through is, “It is the job of the Rav, Rabbanim, to give mussar, rebuke. Who am I to rebuke my fellow? I am a simple Jew.” What the person fails to realize is that the subject of the rebuke would probably be more likely to acquiesce to accepting rebuke from a peer than he would from a spiritual leader whom (he feels) does not “understand” him. Last, is the most common excuse, “I am not any better than he is. I also speak during Kaddish. Who am I to rebuke him?”

Rav Yehonasan cites the Zohar HaKadosh who makes a frightening statement: “When the Shliach tzibbur, chazzan, recites Shemoneh Esrai and reaches the brachah, blessing, of Mechayeh ha’meisim, ‘Who remembers the dead,’ Hashem says, ‘Bring before Me anyone who cares about My children.’ The Ministering Angels then present to Hashem the d’mus d’yukno, image, of the person who rebuked his fellow and thereby caused him to cease from sinning.”

Rav Yehonasan asks: Why does Hashem make His request specifically when the Shliach Tzibbur is about to recite the blessing of Mechayeh ha’meisim? He explains that one who rebukes his fellow, thereby causing him to put an end to his spiritual decline, is truly mechayeh meisim, resurrects the dead. He catalyzes his fellow’s return to a life of inspiration, purpose and value. Eliyahu HaNavi resurrected a deceased person, allowing him to live for another seventy years. One who is a spiritual interventionist, who causes his fellow to alter his life of abandon and return to a committed life, saves generations! He enables him to have a share in the eternal life and, as a result, has saved his future descendants from a life of infamy.

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